Objectives: Selection of efficacious medications for rheumatoid arthritis (RA) has tremendously increased over a decade including new costly biologic agents and inexpensive conventional anti-rheumatic drugs, used in combinations for more efficacy. Treatments aim at remission or at least low disease activity. Our objective was to study whether treatment target is reached and to what cost, in patients with RA in two Nordic rheumatology clinics.
Methods: Cross sectional observational clinical data of all patients with RA seen in 2010 in two Nordic county hospital rheumatology units: Kristiansand, Norway and Jyväskylä, Finland, which both serve a population of about 275,000. Measures included patient demographic measures, clinical characteristics, disease activity, functional status, and treatments. Annual costs of medications to the society were calculated per 100 patients, using an assumption that a patient is taking current medications for one year.
Results: Patient populations from Kristiansand and Jyväskylä were similar according to age, gender, disease duration, and prevalence of RF and CCP. Disease activity was low and patients' functional status well reserved in both clinics. Almost twice as many patients in Kristiansand than in Jyväskylä (33% vs. 17%) used biologic agents. A combination of conventional anti-rheumatic drugs was currently used by <1% of patients in Kristiansand and by 37% of patients in Jyväskylä. Estimated annual costs of medications per 100 patients were €508,000 in Kristiansand and €280,000 in Jyväskylä.
Conclusions: Treatment target of remission/low disease activity and good functional status can be reached in RA using expensive and less-expensive anti-rheumatic drugs.