Objective: To evaluate direct and indirect costs per quality adjusted life year (QALY) for different initial treatment strategies in very early RA.
Methods: The 1-year data of the treatment in the Rotterdam Early Arthritis Cohort trial were used. Patients with a high probability (>70%) according to their likelihood of progressing to persistent arthritis, based on the prediction model of Visser, were randomized into one of following initial treatment strategies: (A) initial triple DMARD therapy (iTDT) with glucocorticoids (GCs) intramuscular (n = 91); (B) iTDT with an oral GC tapering scheme (n = 93); and (C) initial MTX monotherapy (iMM) with GCs similar to B (n = 97). Data on QALYs, measured with the Dutch EuroQol, and direct and indirect cost were used. Direct costs are costs of treatment and medical consumption, whereas indirect costs are costs due to loss of productivity.
Results: Average QALYs (sd) for A, B and C were, respectively, 0.75 (0.12), 0.75 (0.10) and 0.73 (0.13) for Dutch EuroQol. Highest total costs per QALY (sd) were, respectively, €12748 (€18767), €10 380 (€15 608) and €17 408 (€21 828) for strategy A, B and C (P = 0.012, B vs C). Direct as well as indirect costs were higher with iMM (strategy C) compared with iTDT (strategy B). Higher direct costs were due to ∼40% more biologic usage over time. Higher indirect costs, on the other hand, were caused by more long-term sickness and reduction in contract hours. iTDT was >95% cost-effective across all willingness-to-pay thresholds compared with iMM.
Conclusion: iTDT was more cost-effective and had better worker productivity compared with iMM.
Keywords: QALY; cost–utility; direct and indirect costs; early arthritis; rheumatoid arthritis; worker productivity.
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