Objective: To assess differences in initial treatment and treatment response in male and female patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) in daily clinical practice.
Methods: The proportion of patients with RA starting different antirheumatic treatments (disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs; DMARD) and the response to treatment were compared in the international, observational METEOR register. All visits from start of the first DMARD until the first DMARD switch or the end of followup were selected. The effect of sex on time to switch from first to second treatment was calculated using Cox regression. Linear mixed model analyses were performed to assess whether men and women responded differently to treatments, as measured by Disease Activity Score (DAS) or Health Assessment Questionnaire.
Results: Women (n = 4393) more often started treatment with hydroxychloroquine, as monotherapy or in combination with methotrexate (MTX) or a glucocorticoid, and men (n = 1142) more often started treatment with MTX and/or sulfasalazine. Time to switch DMARD was shorter for women than for men. Women had a statistically significantly higher DAS over time than men (DAS improvement per year β -0.69, 95% CI -0.75 to -0.62 for men and -0.58, 95% CI -0.62 to -0.55 for women). Subanalyses per DMARD group showed for the conventional synthetic DMARD combination therapy a slightly greater decrease in DAS over time in men (-0.89, 95% CI -1.07 to -0.71) compared to women (-0.59, 95% CI -0.67 to -0.51), but these difference between the sexes were clinically negligible.
Conclusion: This worldwide observational study suggests that in daily practice, men and women with RA are prescribed different initial treatments, but there were no differences in response to treatment between the sexes.
Keywords: DISEASE ACTIVITY; DISEASE-MODIFYING ANTIRHEUMATIC DRUGS; HEALTH ASSESSMENT QUESTIONNAIRE; RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS; SEX.