Objective To estimate the sick leave and disability pension trajectory in patients diagnosed with early rheumatoid arthritis (RA) 1999–2007, and in prevalent patients in 2007.
Methods Individuals aged 19–59 years diagnosed with early RA were identified in the Swedish Rheumatology Quality Register (1999–2007; n=3029; 47 years; 73% women). Additionally, prevalent patients in 2007 were identified in the National Patient Register (n=25 922; 52 years; 73% women). For each patient, five age-, sex-, education- and county-matched general population comparators were sampled. Sick leave and disability pension days were retrieved from national registers.
Results Sick leave and disability pension increased from a mean 43 to 77 days/year from 2 to 1 years before RA diagnosis. A further increase to 147 days/year was observed the next year, followed by a rebound to 116 days/year 4 years after diagnosis. During the 4 years following diagnosis, sick leave decreased from a mean 118 to 35 and disability pension increased from 29 to 81 days/year. In the prevalent RA population, patients had a mean 158 annual days of sick leave and disability pension compared to 71 in comparators. Large variations existed across age, sex and education level, but RA patients had consistently higher levels. In 2007, the costs associated with sick leave and disability pension were €16 000 per patient with €9 000 attributable to RA.
Conclusion Despite better drugs and improved treatment strategies, data from contemporary patients with early and established RA continue to indicate large unmet needs.
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The ARTIS Study Group E Baecklund (Uppsala University), L Cöster (Linköping University), C Dackhammar (Sahlgrenska Academy), N Feltelius (Medical Products Agency), P Geborek (Lund University), L Jacobsson (Lund University), L Klareskog (Karolinska Institutet), S Lindblad (Karolinska Institutet), S Rantapaa-Dahlqvist (Umeå University), T Saxne (Lund University) and R van Vollenhoven (Karolinska Institutet).
Competing interests The ARTIS Study Group conducts scientific analyses using data from the Swedish Biologics Register ARTIS run by the Swedish Society for Rheumatology. For the maintenance of this register, the Swedish Society for Rheumatology has received funding, independent of the conduct of these scientific analyses, from Schering-Plough, BMS, Wyeth, Abbott Laboratories and Roche.
Ethics approval This study was conducted with the approval of the Regional Ethics Committee, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.