Clinical and economic burden of organ damage among patients with systemic lupus erythematosus in a real-world setting in Germany

BMC Rheumatol. 2024 May 17;8(1):18. doi: 10.1186/s41927-024-00387-6.


Background: Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), a chronic multisystem autoimmune disease, carries high risk of organ damage and burden to healthcare systems. SLE disease modification aims to reduce disease activity with minimal treatment toxicity and preventing or minimizing organ damage development. This real-world study utilizing healthcare administrative claims data assessed organ damage development, associated costs and healthcare resource utilization (HCRU) in patients with SLE in Germany.

Methods: Claims data from January 1, 2007, to December 31, 2017, were obtained from the Betriebskrankenkassen German Sickness Fund Database. Adults (> 18 years) with a confirmed SLE diagnosis between January 1, 2009, and December 31, 2014, (inclusion period) were included. The index date was calculated based on the first recorded SLE diagnosis during this period. Patients were propensity score-matched (1:3) to a comparator cohort without SLE by age, sex, and comorbidities (Charlson comorbidity index). Organ damage was identified using an algorithm developed based on conditions described in the Systemic Lupus International Collaborating Clinics/American College of Rheumatology Damage Index (SDI), using ICD-10-GM diagnostic codes, healthcare procedures, and/or treatments.

Results: 2121 patients with SLE and 6308 comparator patients were included (mean follow-up time: 6.4 years). Organ damage prevalence increased from 60.5% at baseline to 83.0% during 6 years of follow-up in all patients with SLE, while 17.0% of patients with SLE did not develop organ damage. Patients with newly confirmed SLE diagnosis without organ damage at baseline were nearly twice as likely to develop organ damage within 5 years versus the comparator cohort (52.0% vs. 27.0%). Total annual costs per patient-year for patients with SLE with organ damage were more than double those of patients with SLE without organ damage; both the number of inpatient admissions and length of stay were higher.

Conclusions: The application of a recently developed algorithm allowed us to use claims data to elucidate SLE organ damage, and its associated high clinical and economic burden, in a large, representative sample in Germany. To our knowledge, this is the first European analysis of its kind involving a broad cohort of patients with SLE treated in the routine care setting.

Keywords: Economic burden; Healthcare resource utilization; Organ damage; Real-world evidence; SLICC/ACR damage index; Systemic lupus erythematosus.