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Will savings from biosimilars offset increased costs related to dose escalation? A comparison of infliximab and golimumab for rheumatoid arthritis


Curtis JR1, Xie F2, Kay J3, Kallich JD4. Arthritis Res Ther. 2019 Dec 12;21(1):285. doi: 10.1186/s13075-019-2022-8.

Author Information

1 University of Alabama at Birmingham, 510 20th Street South, Birmingham, AL, 35294, USA. jcurtis@uab.edu.

2 University of Alabama at Birmingham, 510 20th Street South, Birmingham, AL, 35294, USA.

3 UMass Memorial Medical Center and University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, USA.

4 Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences University, Boston, USA.



Biosimilar infliximab has the potential for appreciable cost savings compared to its reference biologic, but dose escalation is common and increases costs. We compared frequency of dose escalation and associated Medicare-approved amount so as to determine the break-even point at which infliximab dose escalation would offset the cost savings of using a biosimilar, referent to alternatively using golimumab.


We studied Medicare enrollees with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) initiating infliximab or golimumab. Frequency of dose escalation was summarized descriptively over 18 months, as were Medicare-approved amounts for reimbursement. Analyses were repeated conditioning on high adherence (i.e., non-discontinuation, > 10-week gap). Multivariable-adjusted logistic regression and mixed models evaluated factors associated with infliximab dose escalation.


A total of 5174 infliximab and 2843 golimumab initiators were observed. Dose escalation was rare for golimumab (5%) but common for infliximab (49%), and was even more common (72%) for infliximab among patients who persisted on treatment. Regardless of dose escalation, the adjusted least square mean dollar amounts were appreciably higher for golimumab ($28,146) than for infliximab ($21,216) and greater among persistent patients (cost difference $9269, favoring infliximab). Only when patients escalated infliximab to ≥ 8 mg/kg every 6 weeks was golimumab IV at break-even or less expensive. After controlling for multiple factors, physician ownership of the infusion center was associated with greater likelihood of infliximab dose escalation (odds ratio = 1.25, 95% CI 1.09-1.44).


Despite frequent dose escalation with infliximab that often increase its dose by threefold or more, the savings from the current price of its biosimilar substantially offsets the costs of an alternative infused TNFi biologic for which no biosimilar is available.