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Comparative risk of malignancies and infections in patients with rheumatoid arthritis initiating abatacept versus other biologics: a multi-database real-world study


Simon TA1, Boers M2, Hochberg M3, Baker N4, Skovron ML4, Ray N5, Singhal S5, Suissa S6, Gomez-Caminero A4. Arthritis Res Ther. 2019 Nov 8;21(1):228. doi: 10.1186/s13075-019-1992-x.

Author Information

1 Bristol-Myers Squibb, Princeton, NJ, USA. teresa.simon1@verizon.net.

2 Amsterdam University Medical Centers, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

3 University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, USA.

4 Bristol-Myers Squibb, Princeton, NJ, USA.

5 Mu Sigma, Bengaluru, Karnataka, India.

6 McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.


BACKGROUND: Patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) are at an increased risk of developing certain cancers and infections compared with the general population. Biologic and targeted synthetic disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (b/tsDMARDs) are effective treatment options for RA, but limited evidence is available on the comparative risks among b/tsDMARDs. We assessed the risk of malignancies and infections in patients with RA who initiated abatacept versus other b/tsDMARDs in a real-world setting. METHODS: This retrospective, observational study used administrative data from three large US healthcare databases (MarketScan, PharMetrics, and Optum) to identify patients treated with abatacept or other b/tsDMARDs. In both groups, age-stratified incidence rates (IRs) with 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were calculated for total malignancy and hospitalized infections; propensity score matching and Cox proportional hazards regression models were used to estimate hazard ratios (HRs) with 95% CIs for total malignancy, lung cancer, lymphoma, breast cancer, non-melanoma skin cancer (NMSC), hospitalized infections, opportunistic infections, and tuberculosis (TB), both within individual databases and in meta-analyses across the three databases. RESULTS: A rounded total of 19.2, 13.6, and 4.2 thousand patients initiating abatacept and 55.3, 40.8, and 13.8 thousand initiating other b/tsDMARDs were identified in the MarketScan, PharMetrics, and Optum databases, respectively. The IRs for total malignancy and hospitalized infections were similar between the two groups in each age stratum. In meta-analyses, total malignancy risk (HR [95% CI] 1.09 [1.02-1.16]) of abatacept versus other b/tsDMARDs was slightly but statistically significantly increased; small, but not statistically significant, increases were seen for lung cancer (1.10 [0.62-1.96]), lymphoma (1.27 [0.94-1.72]), breast cancer (1.15 [0.92-1.45]), and NMSC (1.10 [0.93-1.30]). No significant increase in hospitalized infections (0.96 [0.84-1.09]) or opportunistic infections (1.06 [0.96-1.17]) was seen. For TB, low event counts precluded meta-analysis. CONCLUSIONS: In this real-world multi-database study, the risks for specific cancers and infections did not differ significantly between patients in the abatacept and other b/tsDMARDs groups. The slight increase in total malignancy risk associated with abatacept needs further investigation. These results are consistent with the established safety profile of abatacept.