The changing use of disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs in individuals with rheumatoid arthritis from the United Kingdom General Practice Research Database.
Edwards CJ., Arden NK., Fisher D., Saperia JC., Reading I., Van Staa TP., Cooper C.
OBJECTIVES: To describe the use of disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and changing trends in their use. METHODS: We used the General Practice Research Database (GPRD) to describe DMARD use by patients with RA identified using ICD-9 codes. The GPRD is a UK national database containing records of more than 7 million individuals from 683 general practices. Subjects were studied between 1987 and 2002. The prevalence and duration of individual DMARD use and changing trends in DMARD use were investigated. RESULTS: Thirty-four thousand three hundred and sixty-four patients with RA were identified. Only 17,115 (50%) individuals were prescribed at least one DMARD during the study period. The most commonly prescribed DMARD over the study period was sulphasalazine (46.3%) and then methotrexate (31.4%). Use of methotrexate has increased 17-fold (1.8% of all DMARD prescriptions in 1988 to 30% in 2002) whereas use of gold has fallen (13.2% to 2.3%). Analysis of DMARD persistence using Kaplan-Meier survival curves showed the methotrexate use persisted significantly longer than other DMARDs with an estimated median of 8.1 yr. Prednisolone was used in up to 50% of RA patients in any one year and has remained fairly constant throughout the study period. CONCLUSIONS: Large numbers of individuals with a clinical diagnosis of RA identified from a large primary care database are not receiving DMARDs. This work suggests that many individuals with RA have not been treated appropriately and this may have major long-term consequences on joint damage and general health.