First-year drug therapy of new-onset rheumatoid and undifferentiated arthritis: A nationwide register-based study

Paula Muilu, Vappu Rantalaiho, Hannu Kautiainen, Lauri J. Virta, Johan G. Eriksson, Kari Puolakka

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    Background: In this retrospective cohort study, we evaluated the drug therapies used for early rheumatoid (RA) and undifferentiated (UA) arthritis patients. Methods: From a nationwide register maintained by the Social Insurance Institution, information on sex, date of birth, and date of special medicine reimbursement decision for all new Finnish RA and UA patients between 2011 and 14 were collected, and their DMARD (Disease Modifying Antirheumatic Drug) purchases during the first year after the diagnosis were analyzed. Results: A total of 7338 patients with early RA (67.3% female, 68.1% seropositive) and 2433 with early UA (67.8% female) were identified. DMARDs were initiated during the first month after the diagnosis to 92.0% of the patients with seropositive RA, 90.3% with seronegative RA and to 87.7% with UA (p < 0.001). Respectively, 72.1, 63.4, and 42.9% of the patients (p < 0.001) purchased methotrexate; 49.8, 35.9, and 16.0% (p < 0.001) as part of a DMARD combination during the first month. By the end of the first year after the diagnosis, self-injected biologics were purchased by 2.6, 5.3 and 3.1% (p < 0.001) of them. Only 1.4, 2.6 and 3.0% (p < 0.001) of the patients were not receiving any DMARDs. During the first year, 83.4% of the seropositive RA patients had purchased methotrexate, 50.4% sulfasalazine, 72.1% hydroxychloroquine, and 72.6% prednisolone. Conclusions: Currently, combination therapy including methotrexate is a common treatment strategy for early seropositive RA in Finland. Despite an easy access to biologics, these drugs are seldom needed during the first year after diagnosis.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number34
    JournalBMC Rheumatology
    Publication statusPublished - 3 Jul 2020
    Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


    • Antirheumatic drugs
    • Biologic therapy
    • Disease modifying
    • Rheumatoid arthritis
    • Undifferentiated arthritis

    Publication forum classification

    • Publication forum level 1

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Rheumatology


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