[Health economics research in the area of chronic polyarthritis]

S Merkesdal, J Ruof, T Mittendorf, W Mau, H Zeidler
Zeitschrift Für Rheumatologie 2002, 61 (1): 21-9
Costs of illness are of major economic relevance in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) as in other chronic diseases. Overall costs of 15,000 Euro/year: 10,000 Euro indirect costs, and 5000 Euro direct costs are estimated, respectively. A further detailed analysis of direct costs underlines that inpatient care (50%) is the most prominent cost driver. Medication costs are also evaluated in detail since they are expected to gain importance with the introduction of the more expensive biologicals. While annual costs for regular disease modifying drugs (DMARDs) vary from 160 to 5000 Euro per patient, costs for the new biologicals amount up to 20,000 Euro (100-125% of the current estimated overall costs). For a comparison of different therapeutic strategies, costs are related to effectiveness in cost-effectiveness analyses. Based on present clinical trials, the ratios of medication costs and response according to the ACR 20-criteria of various DMARDs and biologicals are compared. The most cost-effective medication is sulfasalzine, followed by methotrexate, and leflunomide. Combining etanercept and methotrexate is preferable to methotrexate monotherapy and the combination of infliximab and methotrexate. This review shows that important economic issues in RA have already been addressed by applying cost-of-illness analyses and cost-effectiveness analyses. However, the knowledge about cost-effective therapeutic options is still scarce. Thus, primary data will have to be obtained using standardized approaches. These economic findings can be taken into account in the development of disease-management recommendations for RA-therapy.

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