Comparison of Real Costs in the French Healthcare System in Newly Diagnosed Patients With Pemphigus for First-Line Treatment With Rituximab vs. Standard Corticosteroid Regimen: Data From a National Multicentre Trial

Br J Dermatol. 2020 Jul;183(1):121-127. doi: 10.1111/bjd.18563. Epub 2020 Jan 15.


Background: Rituximab has been demonstrated to be highly effective as a first-line treatment for moderate-to-severe pemphigus; however, its high cost can be considered a limitation of this treatment.

Objectives: To compare direct costs of two regimens, rituximab + short-term prednisone vs. prednisone alone, tested in the Ritux3 trial.

Methods: Patients were randomly assigned to receive 2 g of rituximab and two 500-mg maintenance infusions at month 12 and month 18 along with low doses of prednisone for 3-6 months, or high doses of prednisone alone tapered over 12-18 months. We estimated the direct costs related to (i) protocol (treatments, consultations, hospitalizations); (ii) unfavourable disease course (relapse); and (iii) adverse events in both treatment groups during a 3-year follow-up.

Results: Annual individual cost discrepancies related to drugs decreased from +€3597 to -€1589 from the first to the third year, which corresponded to an initially higher cost in the rituximab group, counterbalanced during follow-up by costs related to treatment of patients with persistent disease activity/relapses in the standard corticosteroid (CS) group. Individual costs relating to treatment of adverse events were higher in the standard CS group (€4352) than in the rituximab group (€2468). Overall, mean individual total cost over the 3 years of follow-up was €13 997 in the standard CS arm vs. €14 818 in the rituximab arm, corresponding to a difference of €821 more per patient (+6%).

Conclusions: First-line treatment of pemphigus with rituximab results in a slightly greater cost compared with a standard CS regimen. What's already known about this topic Rituximab is the most effective treatment for moderate-to-severe pemphigus. Rituximab cost might be considered as a limitation of this treatment. What does this study add? After 3 years of follow-up, mean individual total cost for a patient with first-line treatment with rituximab was €14 818 vs. €13 997 with standard corticosteroids (CS), resulting in a slightly higher cost of €821 (+6%). The initially greater cost of rituximab was counterbalanced by costs related to management of flares/relapses in patients treated with a standard CS regimen.