Medical Care Costs Associated With Rheumatoid Arthritis in the US: A Systematic Literature Review and Meta-Analysis

Arthritis Care Res (Hoboken). 2018 Oct;70(10):1431-1438. doi: 10.1002/acr.23512.


Objective: Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a morbid, mortal, and costly condition without a cure. Treatments for RA have expanded over the last 2 decades, and direct medical costs may differ by types of treatments. There has not been a systematic literature review since the introduction of new RA treatments, including biologic disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (bDMARDs).

Methods: We conducted a systematic literature review with meta-analysis of direct medical costs associated with RA patients cared for in the US since the marketing of the first bDMARD. Standard search strategies and sources were used, and data were extracted independently by 2 reviewers. The methods and quality of included studies were assessed. Total direct medical costs as well as RA-specific costs were calculated using random-effects meta-analysis. Subgroups of interest included Medicare patients and those using bDMARDs.

Results: We found 541 potentially relevant studies, and 12 articles met the selection criteria. The quality of studies varied: one-third were poor, one-third were fair, and one-third were good. Total direct medical costs were estimated at $12,509 (95% confidence interval [95% CI] 7,451-21,001) for all RA patients using any treatment regimen and $36,053 (95% CI 32,138-40,445) for bDMARD users. RA-specific costs were $3,723 (95% CI 2,408-5,762) for all RA patients using any treatment regimen and $20,262 (95% CI 17,480-23,487) for bDMARD users.

Conclusion: The total and disease-specific direct medical costs for patients with RA is substantial. Among bDMARD users, the cost of RA care is more than half of all direct medical costs.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / economics*
  • Cost of Illness
  • Health Care Costs*
  • Humans