Cost Prevents Some Rheumatoid Arthritis Patients From Needed Prescritions

For many patients with chronic conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, medication adherence is often one of the most challenging aspects of the treatment process, especially when the medications prescribed by their health care professional are prohibitively expensive. A study from Manchester University recently showed that many patients with rheumatoid arthritis are not taking some of their most critical medicines due to rising drug costs.

Results from the multicenter study showed that 27% of the patients taking anti-TNF therapies did not take the treatments prescribed to them in the first six months of the process. The authors, from the Arthritis Research UK Centre for Genetics and Genomics, said that non-adherence to prescriptions for treatment can do more harm than good for patients who need the medications for their daily lives.

The study looked at 286 patients at 60 rheumatology clinics in the United Kingdom between 2008 and 2012 who had been treated for the condition for at least 7 years. The results of non-adherence were reported at 3 and 6 months over the course of the study.

“If patients do not take their medication as prescribed it is likely to have a significant effect on whether they respond to therapy and could mean that their condition deteriorates more quickly affecting their quality of life,” said Kimme Hyrich, MD, a reader in rheumatology at the University of Manchester, who also serves as an honorary consultant at the Manchester Royal Infirmary. “Non-adherence is also a waste of scarce healthcare resources and something that needs to be addressed.”

The authors noted that more than 400,000 people are affected by Rheumatoid arthritis in the United Kingdom and that the anti-TNF therapy can cost patients between £8,000 and £12,000 a year.

Alan Silman, who serves as the medical director of Arthritis Research UK, said that while the prescription is expensive it has proved its worth in helping to improve a patient’s quality of life.

“Anti-TNF drugs have transformed the lives of a substantial number of patients with rheumatoid arthritis and related disorders. This success has been at a considerable cost to the NHS but there was always the assumption that patients prescribed these drugs will have the necessary regular injections,” he said. “The fact that a considerable proportion of patients are missing doses of these very expensive agents is worrying, as clearly their effectiveness would be reduced.”

The study was funded by Arthritis Research UK and the Manchester National Institute for Health Research Manchester Musculoskeletal Biomedical Research Unit.

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