Rheumatoid Arthritis Patients Find Treatment Hard to Stick With

Arthritis & Rheumatism
, only one in five people with rheumatoid arthritis reach an adherence rate of at least 80 percent for their oral medications. In addition, one-third of patient taking non-biologic disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) don’t comply with the use of these medications.

This study enrolled 107 RA patients during a two-year period at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston and electronically monitored patient use of medications. The patient population was ethnically diverse and low-income. Adherence data showed that to be adherent, which for this study was considered taking the prescribed medication correctly at least 80 percent of the time, only 21 percent of patients on DMARDs qualified as adherent and 41 percent of those on prednisone qualified as adherent.

Also in recent news related to rheumatoid arthritis medication compliance, comes data presented at the 2013 Annual Congress of the European League Against Rheumatism, which found that fully one-third of RA patients stop or alter their therapy plan in their first year of treatment. The early years of RA development provide the opportunity for the greatest benefit from RA treatment, which makes this a particularly unfortunate time for patients to discontinue their treatment plans. Untreated RA risks permanent disability and a reduced lifespan.

Adherence and treatment outcomes, of course, are closed tied. The adherent patients in the Arthritis & Rheumatism study, not surprisingly, showed less radiological joint damage and were documented to have lower disease activity scores. In a press release accompanying the publishing of this study, one of the study researchers, Dr. Maria Suarez-Almazor, notes that: “Physicians should work with patients to understand their reasons for non-adherence and discuss the importance of taking medications as prescribed to control RA symptoms and prevent disease progression.”

Specialty pharmacies, in concert with physicians, can work with RA patients to improve adherence rates by educating and offering side effect management. By doing so, adherence improves, which naturally leads to improved patient outcomes. At BioPlus, by forming a team with the prescriber and the patient, our RA data for the past five years demonstrates an 87 percent compliance rate at discharge. It takes a specialist medical pharmacy, working in concert with the rheumatoid specialist, to achieve these adherence results. Persistence and focus is our secret sauce to making this happen.


What do you think

I’d love to hear your opinion in the comments section below.

Stephen C Vogt, PharmD
President and CEO
BioPlus SP


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

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