Objectives: To explore the cost-effectiveness of early biologic treatment, followed by dose-reduction in the case of remission, of active rheumatoid arthritis (RA), compared with standard treatment with methotrexate (MTX) in Sweden.
Methods: Effectiveness (function, disease activity, erosions) in early RA for both alternatives was taken from a clinical trial comparing etanercept (ETA) combined with MTX to MTX alone. Patients discontinuing treatment can switch to another or their first biologic treatment. For patients in remission (Disease Activity Score [DAS28] < 2.6), ETA is reduced to half the dose. Return to full dose occurs when DAS28 reaches ≥ 3.2 again. Costs and utilities by level of functional capacity from an observational study are used. The model is analyzed as a micro-simulation and results are presented from the societal perspective for Sweden, for 10 years; costs (€2008) and effects are discounted at 3 percent. Sensitivity analysis was performed for the perspective, the time horizon, switching, and dose-reduction.
Results: The main analysis conservatively assumes 50 percent switching at discontinuation. The cost per quality-adjusted life-year (QALY) gained with early ETA/MTX treatment is €13,500 (societal perspective, incremental cost of €15,500 and incremental QALYs of 1.15). With 75 percent switching, the cost per QALY gained was €10,400. Over 20 years, the cost per QALY gained was €8,200. Results were further sensitive to the time patients remained on half dose and the perspective.
Conclusions and Policy Implications: This study combines clinical trial and clinical practice data to explore cost-effective treatment scenarios in early RA, including the use of biologics. Our results indicate that a situation where a considerable proportion of patients achieve remission, dose-adjustments will increase the cost-effectiveness of treatment.