Objective: To assess the association between use of etanercept and employment outcomes among patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
Methods: In 1999, 497 RA patients of working ages (18-64 years) reported their employment status in the year of diagnosis and as of the study year, in structured telephone interviews. Of these, 238 had been in clinical trials of etanercept and were currently taking that medication, while 259 were members of an observational study and were not taking etanercept. We used regression techniques to estimate whether employment outcomes in 1999 (employed versus not and, among the employed, hours of work per week, weeks of work per year, and hours of work per year) among the 379 of the 497 patients who were employed at the time of diagnosis were associated with etanercept use, with and without adjustment for demographic characteristics, RA status, overall health status, and the nature of the job held at the time of diagnosis.
Results: At the time of diagnosis, 75% of RA patients from the observational study who did not take etanercept and 77% of those who did take the medication were employed. By 1999, among those employed at diagnosis, 55% of the former group and 71% of the latter were employed (difference 16 percentage points). After adjustment for demographics, overall health status, duration of RA, RA status, and occupation and industry, the difference widened to 20 percentage points. Among all who were employed at the time of diagnosis, those from the etanercept clinical trials worked an average of 5.4 more hours per week in 1999; after adjustment, the etanercept group worked 7.4 more hours per week.
Conclusion: Among all persons who were employed at the time of RA diagnosis, having been in the etanercept clinical trials was associated with higher employment rates in 1999 and a greater number of hours per week of work in that year, suggesting that a randomized trial to establish the relationship between treatment and employment outcomes is now warranted.