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Meta-analysis

Biological agents can reduce work absenteeism in patients with rheumatic disease

Patients with rheumatic disease who are treated with biological drugs miss fewer days of work and are more productive than patients treated with non-biological agents, reveals a meta-analysis

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The high cost of biological drugs could be offset by a decrease in missing days at work and an increase in productivity for individuals with rheumatic disease, suggest researchers

Patients with rheumatic disease who are treated with biological drugs miss fewer days of work and are more productive than patients treated with non-biological agents, reveals a meta-analysis[1] presented at the Annual European Congress of Rheumatology on 12 June 2015. 

Lead author Cécile Gaujoux Viala, head of the rheumatology department of Nȋmes University Hospital in France, suggests this could partly offset the high cost of biologicals, which include the drug infliximab. 

Diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis and psoriatic arthritis have a significant economic cost and burden on the patient. “One third of these patients will stop working within two years,” says Gaujoux Viala. 

Data from 15 randomised controlled trials and seven controlled cohort trials were analysed, including 15,881 patients given biological disease modifying anti rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) and 9,713 patients treated with non-biologic DMARDs. Pooled analyses indicated that biological agents significantly reduced accumulated missed workdays at week 24 (two trials, standardised response mean = -0.34, 95% confidence interval [CI] -0.60 to -0.08), the number of patients losing hours (three trials, odds ratio [OR] 0.54, 95% CI 0.36–0.79) and improved work productivity. The positive effect on employment loss was nearly significant (eight trials: OR 0.60, 95% CI 0.33–1.09). 

Gaujouz Viala said that biologics could substantially decrease the progression of rheumatic disease. She suggested that the high cost of the drugs could be offset by a decrease in missing days at work and an increase in productivity. “But we need more data for ankylosing spondylitis and psoriatic arthritis,” of which there were only 319 and 605 patients in the clinical trials, respectively, she added.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2015.20068775

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