Factors associated with the initiation of biologic disease modifying antirheumatic drugs in Texas Medicaid patients with rheumatoid arthritis
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Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a progressive autoimmune disorder of joints that is associated with high health care costs and yet lacks guidance on how early to initiate biologic disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs), a class of medications that is the major cost driver in RA management. The main purpose of this study was to examine patient socio-demographics, medication use patterns, and clinical characteristics associated with initiation of biologic DMARDs. This was a retrospective study using Texas Medicaid prescription and medical claims database during the study period of July 1, 2003 – December 31, 2010. Patients (18 – 63 years) with an RA diagnosis (ICD-9-CM code 714.xx), no non-biologic DMARD or biologic DMARD use during the pre-index period, and a minimum of 2 prescription claims for the same non-biologic DMARD during the post-index period were included in the study. The primary study outcomes were time to initiation of biologic DMARDs and likelihood of initiating biologic DMARDs. There was a total of 2,714 subjects included in the study. The majority had claims for pain medications (92.4%), glucocorticoids (64.9%), and non-biologic DMARD monotherapy (86.4%); while 24.3% initiated on biologic DMARDs and 58.9% had a Charlson Comorbidity Index (CCI) score=1. Compared to time to initiation (days) of biologic DMARDs for methotrexate (539.7±276.9) users, it was longer for sulfasalazine (670.2±167.8) and hydroxychloroquine (680.2±158.7) users and similar to leflunomide users (541.6±286.5; p<0.0001). There were no significant differences in time to initiation between non-biologic DMARD mono vs. dual therapy. Younger age, glucocorticoid use, methotrexate user (vs. sulfasalazine, hydroxychloroquine users), and non-biologic DMARD monotherapy user (vs. dual therapy user) were significantly associated with higher likelihood to initiate biologic DMARDs. In conclusion, age, glucocorticoid use, non-biologic DMARD type and therapy were significant factors associated with initiation of biologic DMARDs. Healthcare providers and Texas Medicaid should recognize these potential driving factors and take efforts to achieve optimal therapy for RA patients through thorough RA medication evaluation, well-structured RA monitoring programs, and patient education.