Savings From Slowing RA

Rheumatoid arthritis patients who achieve remission may lower healthcare costs

(RxWiki News) Living with a chronic disease like rheumatoid arthritis can be expensive. Arthritis patients live years battling their painful condition with drugs and other treatments.

When patients with rheumatoid arthritis achieve remission (the easing of symptoms), the costs to the healthcare system may be reduced, according to a recent study.

Compared to those who had continual moderate to high disease activity, patients who had sustained remission saved $2,391 per year. Patients with low disease activity (less symptoms but not quite remission) saved $2,104 per year compared to those with continual moderate to high disease activity.

"Control arthritis to boost your productivity."

Cheryl Barnabe, MD, MSc, of the University of Calgary in Canada, and colleagues set out to study the healthcare costs among patients taking biologic drugs for rheumatoid arthritis and how those costs changed when patients achieved remission.

The researchers also saw savings of $1,422 for patients who had sustained remission compared to those without sustained remission. In other words, even if patients achieved remission at some point, there were still savings to be had for longer-term remission.

The majority of costs in the study connected with hospitalizations not related to rheumatoid arthritis. The study included 1,086 patients with rheumatoid arthritis. During the study, 16 percent of rheumatoid arthritis patients (about 174 patients) achieved remission for more than 1 year.

To measure remission, the researchers used the DAS-28, or Disease Activity Score. The DAS-28 is used to assess the number of tender and swollen joints out of a total of 28 joints.

A total of 37 percent of patients (about 402 patients) had a DAS28 remission for less than a year. Another 13 percent (about 142 patients) had low disease activity for less than a year and 31 percent had continual moderate to high disease activity.

According to the authors, these findings suggest that there are economic benefits when patients with rheumatoid arthritis have good disease control.

Add to that the increased productivity that comes from controlling rheumatoid arthritis and there could be a societal benefit to using biologic drugs to achieve remission of rheumatoid arthritis, the authors concluded.

The study was published November 1 in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases.

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Review Date: 
November 5, 2012