Almost one-third of RA patients are taking biologics

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Biologics are now being used by nearly 30% of patients with rheumatoid arthritis, a German study reveals

An analysis of a national database for rheumatological conditions in Germany has revealed that biologics are now being used by nearly 30% of patients with rheumatoid arthritis.

The database has been running since 1993 and collects annual data on more than 10,000 patients with inflammatory rheumatic diseases.

The most recent data was published in the journal Zeitschrift für Rheumatologie in August.

The first German patients were prescribed biologics in the early 2000s.

By 2016, the proportions of patients taking biologics in Germany had climbed to:

  • 28% of patients with RA
  • 33% of patients with psoriatic arthritis
  • 50% of patients with ankylosing spondylitis

The most common biologics prescribed in Germany were etanercept and adalimumab, followed by rituximab, tocilizumab and golimumab.

Most German patients taking biologics combined them with a conventional medication, most commonly methotrexate.

This is quite similar to the proportion of Australian patients with RA taking biologics, which is 30% according to the 2017 CEDAR study of 12,500 RA patients.

While use of biologics increased, some medications, such as glucocorticoids,fell out of favour.

“Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are also on the decline, with 25% (RA) to 45% (AS) receiving NSAIDs in 2016,” the paper said.

The management of rheumatic disease has clearly improved over time, with the German data showing a decrease in the proportion of RA patients that have severe disease from 23% in 1993 to 13% in 2016.

Quality of life appears to have improved too, with lost working days cutting by one third over that same time period.

Zeitschrift für Rheumatologie 2019, 12 August



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