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50 percent of rheumatoid arthritis patients discontinue medication within the first 2 years

Patients at risk of permanent disability and reduced lifespan

Data presented at EULAR 2013, the Annual Congress of the European League Against Rheumatism, show that up to one-third of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients discontinue or change therapy within the first year of treatment.

Loss of efficacy was the most common reason given (35.8%), followed by safety (20.1%), physician or patient preference (27.8% and 17.9%, respectively) and access to treatment (9.0%). Rates and rationale for treatment discontinuation were similar for both tumour necrosis factor inhibitors (TNFi) and non-TNFi biologics.

RA is a chronic autoimmune disease that principally attacks flexible joints. Affecting approximately 1 in 100 people worldwide, RA can cause pain, stiffness, progressive joint destruction and deformity, and reduce physical function, quality of life and life expectancy. At least 50% of RA patients in developed countries are unable to hold down a full-time job within 10 years of onset.2

Lead author of the study, Vibeke Strand, MD, Clinical Professor, Stanford University School of Medicine, Portola Valley, California, USA, said, "RA is a progressive disease which, if left untreated, can significantly and permanently reduce joint function, patient mobility and quality of life. Studies have shown that patients sustain maximum benefit from RA treatment in the first two years3 – yet our data highlight significant discontinuation rates during this time period."

Dr. Strand continued, "While there is no cure for RA, initiating treatment early and improving adherence can enable patients to lead active and productive lives. These data are derived from a US experience, which is associated with a significantly greater prevalence of biologic utilisation than is typically seen elsewhere. The results may, therefore, be different in societies with less prevalent utilization of these agents."

The study was designed to examine initiation of biologic therapies within the US Consortium of Rheumatology Researchers of North America (CORRONA) database and characterise reasons for their discontinuation. Treatment discontinuation was defined as the first report of stopping initial therapy or initiation of a new biologic at/or between visits on a follow-up MD questionnaire, with up to three reasons captured.

In total, 6,209 patients meeting the following criteria 2002 from the CORRONA registry were included: age >18 years; RA onset age >16 years; ≥6 months of follow-up available after initiation of first or subsequent biologic therapy, defined as a visit ≥180 days after initiation of biologic therapy. A total of 5,010 patients (80.7%) received TNFi, 1,199 (19.3%) received non-TNFi and 2,693 patients were biologic-naïve.

Median time to discontinuation was 26.5 months in those receiving TNFi versus 20.5 months for non-TNFi. Overall proportions of patients receiving TNFi versus non-TNFi remaining on treatment were 82.5%, 68.2% and 52.2% at 6, 12, and 24 months versus 80.9%, 63.4% and 46.0%, respectively.


1.Strand V et al., Discontinuation of biologic therapy in rheumatoid arthritis (RA): analysis from the consortium of rheumatology researchers of North America (CORRONA) database [abstract]. EULAR Annual European Congress of Rheumatology; 12-15 June 2013; Madrid, Spain. Abstract no. OP0064

2.Chronic Diseases and Health Promotion: Chronic Rheumatic Conditions, World Health Organization. Available from: Last accessed: May 2013

3.Emery P. Evidence supporting the benefit of early intervention in rheumatoid arthritis. J Rheumatol. 2002;29(Suppl 66):3-8


For further information on this study, or to request an interview with the study lead, please do not hesitate to contact the EULAR congress Press Office in room A10:14 of the Congress Centre during EULAR 2013 or on:

EULAR Press Office
Onsite tel: +44 (0) 20 7331 5364 / 5380 / 5318 / 2305
The European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR) is an umbrella organisation which represents scientific societies, health professional associations and organisations of people with rheumatic diseases throughout Europe
In line with the European Union of Medical Specialists (UEMS), EULAR defines rheumatology as including rheumatic diseases of the connective tissue, locomotor and musculoskeletal systems.
EULAR aims to promote, stimulate and support the research, prevention, treatment and rehabilitation of rheumatic diseases
With 45 scientific member societies, 36 People with Arthritis and Rheumatism in Europe (PARE) organisations and 11 health professionals associations, EULAR underscores the importance of combating rheumatic diseases not only through medical means, but also through patient care
EULAR 2013 is set to be the biggest rheumatology event in Europe with over 14,000 scientists, physicians, allied health professionals and related audiences in attendance from more than 110 countries. Over the course of the congress there will be more than 320 oral and 1,800 poster abstract presentations, and 750 lectures with 330 invited speakers

To find out more about the activities of EULAR, visit:

EULAR Press Office | EurekAlert!
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