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Variations in criteria regulating treatment with reimbursed biologic DMARDs across European countries. Are differences related to country's wealth?

Abstract

Objectives To explore criteria regulating treatment with reimbursed biologic disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (bDMARDs) in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) across Europe and to relate criteria to indicators of national socioeconomic welfare.

Methods A cross-sectional study among 46 European countries. One expert from each country completed a questionnaire on criteria regulating the start, maintenance/stop and switch of reimbursed bDMARDs. A composite score was developed to evaluate the level of restrictions in prescription of a first bDMARD (0=highly restricted, 5=most liberal). The level of restrictiveness was correlated with national socioeconomic welfare indicators.

Results In 10 countries (22%), no bDMARD was reimbursed. Among 36 countries with at least one biologic reimbursed, 23(64%) had no requirement for disease duration to initiate a biologic. Half of the countries required a failure of two synthetic DMARDs to qualify for therapy. 31 countries specified a minimum level of disease activity to be fulfilled and in 20 (56%) countries cut-off for disease activity score with 28-joint assessment was higher than 3.2. Four countries (11%) had the maximum composite score (most liberal) and 20 (56%) scored between 0 and 2 (more restrictive). Criteria for initiation of a bDMARD were negatively associated with countries’ socioeconomic welfare (−0.34 to −0.64), and a moderate positive correlation was found between the composite score and welfare indicators (0.59–0.72). Only some countries had regulations for stopping (n=14(39%)) or switching (n=19(53%)).

Conclusions Clinical criteria regulating prescription of bDMARDs in RA differ significantly across Europe. Countries with lower socioeconomic welfare tend to have stricter eligibility criteria, pointing to inequities in access to treatment.

  • DMARDs (biologic)
  • Health services research
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Treatment

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