Systematic literature review on economic implications and pharmacoeconomic issues of rheumatoid arthritis

Clin Exp Rheumatol. Jul-Aug 2012;30(4 Suppl 73):S72-84. Epub 2012 Oct 22.


Objectives: To provide a state of the art of economic analyses applied to rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

Methods: A systematic literature review on economic consequences and pharmacoeconomic issues of RA was performed.

Results: 127 valid articles were examined in this review. Generally, the financial impact of RA is substantial for health-care systems and society worldwide, although differences exist among national economies. Both direct and indirect (i.e. loss of productivity) costs contribute to economic burden of RA and must be taken into account when estimating overall impact to society. Disease severity, disease activity, age and socioeconomic status have been found to be the most relevant predictors of cost increase in RA. Moreover, introduction of biological anti-rheumatic agents has significantly raised direct medical costs in certain patients, but has also led to marked improvements in reducing disease activity, joint damage, and productivity loss in many of these patients. RA has also a significant impact on all aspects of quality of life; recent publications on health utility scores showed RA to be one of the diseases associated with poorest quality of life.

Conclusions: RA represents a clinical and economic burden for healthcare systems. Although attributable RA costs have been extensively evaluated over the last decades, several issues, especially concerning the use of expensive therapies, must be addressed and frequently updated. Future research should also provide health economic evidence from usual practice settings, and on the economic impact of different therapeutic approaches to pursue specific clinical targets in individual patients.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Antirheumatic Agents / economics*
  • Antirheumatic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / drug therapy
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / economics*
  • Cost of Illness
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Drug Costs
  • Economics, Pharmaceutical
  • Humans


  • Antirheumatic Agents