RA Patients are Being Diverted to Expensive Biologics Too Soon

A rheumatologist at University of Nebraska Medical Center asserts that clinicians treating RA are underutilizing methotrexate, or else not keeping their patients on this leading arthritis pharmaceutical agent long enough, in favor of more expensive biologic drugs. James O’Dell, MD, Bruce Professor of Internal Medicine and chief of the UNMC divisions of rheumatology and immunology, delivered the message last week at the annual meeting of the American College of Rheumatology and the Association of Rheumatology Health Professionals in San Francisco. The assertion results from a data review performed by O’Dell and his team following the treatment course of over 35,000 RA patients between 2009 and 2014.

Methotrexate is the anchor drug for a class of medications known as disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs). DMARDS are much less expensive than biologics, the other class of drugs used to treat RA. Previous studies have shown that the 2 classes produce the same clinical benefits in the majority of RA patients. According to O’Dell, if oral methotrexate is not producing the desired results, the RA patient should be switched first to subcutaneous methotrexate at a higher dose. Instead, the team found that 87% of patients who made a treatment change added a biologic vs trying the subcutaneous methotrexate.

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Read more about the study findings here.




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