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A Retrospective Analysis of Corticosteroid Utilization Before Initiation of Biologic DMARDs Among Patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis in the United States

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Spivey CA1, Griffith J2, Kaplan C3, Postlethwaite A3, Ganguli A2, Wang J4. Rheumatol Ther. 2017 Dec 4. doi: 10.1007/s40744-017-0089-8. [Epub ahead of print]


1 University of Tennessee Health Science Center College of Pharmacy, Memphis, TN, USA.

2 Health Economics and Outcomes Research, AbbVie, North Chicago, IL, USA.

3 University of Tennessee Health Science Center College of Medicine, Memphis, TN, USA.

4 University of Tennessee Health Science Center College of Pharmacy, Memphis, TN, USA. jwang26@uthsc.edu.


INTRODUCTION: Understanding the effects of corticosteroid utilization prior to initiation of biologic disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) can inform decision-makers on the appropriate use of these medications. This study examined treatment patterns and associated burden of corticosteroid utilization before initiation of biologic DMARDs among rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients.

METHODS: A retrospective analysis was conducted of adult RA patients in the US MarketScan Database (2011-2015). The following patterns of corticosteroid utilization were analyzed: whether corticosteroids were used; duration of use (short/long duration defined as < or ≥ 3 months); and dosage (low as < 2.5, medium as 2.5 to < 7.5 and high as ≥ 7.5 mg/day). Effects of corticosteroid use on time to biologic DMARD initiation were examined using Cox proportional hazards models. Likelihood and number of adverse events were examined using logistic and negative binomial regression models. Generalized linear models were used to examine healthcare costs. Independent variables in all models included patient demographics and health characteristics.

RESULTS: A total of 25,542 patients were included (40.84% used corticosteroids). Lower hazard of biologic DMARD initiation was associated with corticosteroid use (hazard ratio = 0.89, 95% confidence interval = 0.83-0.96), long duration and lower dose. Corticosteroid users compared to non-users had higher incidence rates of various adverse events including cardiovascular events (P < 0.05). Higher likelihood of adverse events was associated with corticosteroid use and long duration of use, as was increased number of adverse events. Corticosteroid users had a greater annualized mean number of physician visits, hospitalizations, and emergency department (ED) visits than non-users in adjusted analysis. Corticosteroid users compared to non-users had higher mean costs for total healthcare, physician visits, hospitalizations, and ED visits.

CONCLUSIONS: Among patients with RA, corticosteroid utilization is associated with delayed initiation of biologic DMARDS and higher burden of adverse events and healthcare utilization/costs before the initiation of biologic DMARDs.

FUNDING: AbbVie Inc.