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Health Care Resource Utilization and Costs Associated With Switching Biologics in Rheumatoid Arthritis


Vanderpoel J1, Tkacz J2, Brady BL2, Ellis L3. Clin Ther. 2019 Jun;41(6):1080-1089.e5. doi: 10.1016/j.clinthera.2019.04.032. Epub 2019 May 20.

Author Information

1 ACS Group, Duluth, GA, USA.

2 Health Analytics LLC, Columbia, MD, USA.

3 Janssen Scientific Affairs LLC, Horsham, PA, USA. Electronic address: LEllis@its.jnj.com.



Although biologics are effective in managing rheumatoid arthritis (RA), many patients experience at least one biologic switch during treatment. A switch in biologic treatment can occur for medical or nonmedical reasons. Changes to treatment regimens, even in patients previously stable on therapy, can have clinical and cost implications. This study examined health care resource use and costs incurred with switching from an anti-tumor necrosis factor (TNF) medication in a population of patients with RA.


A retrospective analysis of patients with RA identified in Truven Commercial Claims and Encounters database (January 1, 2009, to December 13, 2013) was conducted. Patients were required to show evidence of new initiation of treatment with a biologic medication (index date) and continuous eligibility from 6 months before to 12 months after index. Patients were segmented into a continuous biologic group and a biologic switch group, the latter being further divided into switch from anti-TNF to anti-TNF (A-A subgroup) and switch from anti-TNF to a treatment with other mechanism of action (A-O subgroup). Means (SD) and medians of resource use and cost outcomes were calculated over the 12-month postindex period; multivariate models controlling for demographics, biologic switch, and preindex health, resource use, and costs were constructed.


The total sample comprised 18,070 patients, with 16,643 qualifying for the continuous group and 1427 qualifying for the overall switch group. The overall switch group was more likely to utilize physician office, emergency department, and pharmacy services compared to the continuous group. Consequently, the overall switch group incurred greater total health care costs compared to the continuous group ($41,482 vs $36,557 per patient per annum; p < 0.05). Within the switch group, the A-O subgroup had significantly greater outpatient, medical, and total health care expenditures compared to those in the A-A subgroup. Regression analyses revealed that increased baseline utilization and costs, worse health, and older age were associated with increased utilization and costs over the follow-up period. Switching of biologics was associated with an approximate increase of US $4000 per patient per annum in total health care costs.


These findings suggest that switching biologic agents in patients with RA may be accompanied by increased total health care costs. Efforts to optimize patient response to initial biologic therapy and to reduce unnecessary switching, such as for nonmedical reasons, may help to mitigate these costs.