Effective Treatment Means Less Cost, Improved Quality of Life for Arthritis Sufferers

A new study shows that highly effective therapies for rheumatoid arthritis may be cost-effective in the treatment of this expensive disease by improving patients functional status, their ability to work, and by lessening the other costs of treating patients, according to research presented this week at the American College of Rheumatology Annual Scientific Meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana.

The recent introduction of highly effective novel therapeutic agents, particularly the inhibitors of the important inflammatory cytokine TNF, has been a tremendous advance in the care of patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Because the costs of these newer drugs are higher than that of older ones, a question that arises is whether such agents will be cost-effective. Questions of the costs of rheumatoid arthritis can be complex, because the disease itself is expensive, in terms of time lost from work, inability to work and perform other activities, and other medical costs.

In this study, which assessed the efficacy of the anti-TNF drug infliximab, data were collected that for the first time addressed the cost-efficiency of this treatment for rheumatoid arthritis. Patients completed a survey called the Health Assessment Questionnaire, which assesses how well a person with rheumatoid arthritis can function and perform activities of daily living. Patients treated with infliximab improved significantly in this study, as assessed by various measures including their functional status. Importantly, patients who improved their functional status were more likely to be able to return to work compared to those who did not improve. Also, they lost less time away from work, and incurred lower medical costs.

“The data from this study is very important for rheumatologists, patients with rheumatoid arthritis, and also from a societal perspective,” said Arthur Kavanaugh, MD, Professor of Medicine, University of California, San Diego, and an investigator in the study. “We have all been very excited by the tremendous clinical benefit seen with newer drugs. However, because we are cost-conscious, the cost of the agents has been a factor in utilizing these agents. This data suggests that when a powerful agent such as infliximab is able to significantly improve a patients functional status, that has definite economic benefits which of course should be factored into the treatment decisions.”

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