Changes in cotherapies after initiation of disease - Modifying antirheumatic drug therapy in patients with rheumatoid arthritis

Academic Article


  • Objective. We hypothesized that initiation of a new disease-modifying antirheumatic drug (DMARD) for treatment of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) would decrease the use of corticosteroids, nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and narcotics. Methods. Using administrative databases, we assembled 4 retrospective cohorts of RA patients (1998-2005) and identified 5 groups initiating DMARD regimens: methotrexate (MTX) with (new MTX) or without (first MTX) use of other nonbiologic DMARDs in the previous year; new hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) and/or sulfasalazine (SSZ; new HCQ/SSZ) and new leflunomide (new LEF), both with previous use of MTX; and new tumor necrosis factor α (TNFα) antagonists (new anti-TNF). We compared within-person differences in any use of cotherapies (≥1 prescription) between the 6 months before and the 6-12 months after DMARD initiation. Results. Among 32,476 DMARD initiators, the prevalence of corticosteroid, NSAID, and narcotic use increased by 15%, 5%, and 6%, respectively, in the 6 months before initiation compared to the previous 6 months, suggesting worsening of the disease. In the 6-12 months after initiation for most initiator groups, more patients stopped using corticosteroids and NSAIDs than started, with overall decreases of 8.9% (95% confidence interval [95% CI] 8.4-9.4%) for corticosteroids and 12.9% (95% CI 12.3-13.4%) for NSAIDs. The proportion of narcotic users changed little (overall decrease of 2.5%; 95% CI 1.9-3.0%). Conclusion. Use of all 3 cotherapies increased in the 6 months before initiation of new DMARD regimens for RA. Use of corticosteroids and NSAIDs decreased modestly 6-12 months after initiation, but there was only a very small decrease in narcotic use. These differential changes require further study. © 2011 American College of Rheumatology.
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    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Kawai VK; Grijalva CG; Arbogast PG; Curtis JR; Solomon DH; Delzell E; Chen L; Ouellet-Hellstrom R; Herrinton L; Liu L
  • Start Page

  • 1415
  • End Page

  • 1424
  • Volume

  • 63
  • Issue

  • 10