Variation in the use of biologics in the management of rheumatoid arthritis across the UK.
Choy E., Taylor P., McAuliffe S., Roberts K., Sargeant I.
Treatment options for rheumatoid arthritis (RA) include conventional synthetic disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (sDMARDs) and newer biologic DMARDs (biologics). This study describes treatment patterns, adherence to guidance and outcomes at hospital/regional level in the UK.This was a retrospective cohort study of RA patients selected from six health regions and from four hospitals in each region, including at least one major teaching hospital and two to three district/general hospitals. Treatment with sDMARDs/biologics was examined between November 2009 and June 2010 in comparison with National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) guidance and in relation to disease activity.NICE guidance focuses on initiation of therapy and recommends combination sDMARD/biologic therapy. Analysis of 588 patient records indicates that overall 23% of patients were receiving biologic monotherapy. NICE guidance recommends initiation of biologics in patients with active RA (DAS28 >5.1): average DAS28 score on initiation of biologic therapy was above six in all regions. Range of DAS28 improvement post-biologic therapy was similar across all regions. DAS28 scores were well recorded within patient records at baseline and 6 months but not at other time points.Our data highlight that nearly a quarter of patients receiving biologic treatments are not receiving concomitant sDMARD therapy and that DAS28 is poorly documented in patient medical records other than when initiating biologics and at the 6-month review. Limitations of this study include the limited sample size, the retrospective rather than prospective nature of the audit and the use of medical records only rather than other records such as nursing and pharmacy data. Nevertheless, the reasons for our findings merit further investigation to ensure that optimum treatment regimes and long term outcomes are being achieved for patients.