Annual medical costs for patients with rheumatoid arthritis were almost three times higher for those who used biologic disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (bDMARDs), compared with those who used any treatment regimen, according to meta-analysis of 12 studies conducted since bDMARDs were introduced in 1999.

RA patients who used bDMARDs had an average direct cost of $36,053 per year, which was 2.9 times higher than the $12,509 in annual direct medical costs for all RA patients on any treatment regimen. Proportionately, the difference was even greater for RA-specific care, with the annual cost of bDMARD care ($20,262) 5.4 times higher than that of all treatment regimens ($3,723), reported Andrew Hresko and his associates at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston.

“Costs associated with RA are in line with those for other prominent chronic diseases,” such as diabetes ($14,732 a year), multiple sclerosis ($23,195 a year), and ulcerative colitis ($4,032 to $13,722), they wrote. “Our findings also suggest that the burden of RA patients on the U.S. health care system may become outsized compared to the disease’s relatively small prevalence and compared to patients with these other chronic conditions as more patients use bDMARDs in the future.”

Funding for the study was supported through a grant from the National Institutes of Health. Mr. Hresko was supported by a fellowship from Tufts University. One of his associates receives research support from grants to his hospital from Amgen, Pfizer, Eli Lilly, AstraZeneca, Genentech, Bristol Myers Squibb, and Corrona. The third investigator is now an employee of Amgen but was not during the study.

SOURCE: Hresko A et al. Arthritis Care Res. 2018 Jan 5. doi: 10.1002/acr.23512.