There are now more therapeutic options for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) than ever before, involving a range of mechanisms of action and different routes of administration. The T-cell costimulation modulator abatacept is the first biologic therapy for RA to be available in both subcutaneous (SC) and intravenous (IV) formulations. This review evaluates the utility of SC abatacept, with a particular focus on patient-reported outcomes, including physical function, pain, fatigue, and quality of life. Practical questions relating to the clinical use of SC abatacept are also addressed, including the relevance of abatacept's mechanism of action; whether IV and SC abatacept are comparable; if patients can easily switch from IV to SC abatacept; whether an IV loading dose is needed; and if temporary treatment interruptions or lack of concomitant methotrexate can affect efficacy or safety. Topics that are of particular concern to patients when using SC biologics, such as injection-site reactions, are also discussed. Observational data from registries and meta-analyses of clinical studies suggest comparable clinical efficacy between biologic disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs; however, such analyses rarely focus on key determinants of patient quality of life such as pain, fatigue, and physical function. The head-to-head AMPLE study is one of the first studies powered to directly compare two biologics in patients with RA. Patient-reported outcomes from year 1 of the ongoing study are evaluated, demonstrating comparable improvements in physical function, pain, fatigue, Short Form-36 Health Survey, and Routine Assessment of Patient Index Data 3 scores between SC abatacept and SC adalimumab when administered with concomitant methotrexate. In summary, the data presented herein show that the SC formulation of abatacept provides a valuable addition to the range of available therapy options for patients with RA, capable of significantly improving key patient considerations such as pain, disability, loss of function, fatigue, and quality of life.
Keywords: abatacept; biologic DMARD; patient-reported outcomes; rheumatoid arthritis; subcutaneous.