To describe early rheumatologic management for newly diagnosed rheumatoid arthritis (RA) in Canada.
A retrospective cohort of 339 randomly selected patients with RA diagnosed from 2001-2003 from 18 rheumatology practices was audited between 2005-2007.
The most frequent initial disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARD) included hydroxychloroquine (55.5%) and methotrexate (40.1%). Initial therapy with multiple DMARD (15.6%) or single DMARD and corticosteroid combinations (30.7%) was infrequent. Formal assessment measures were noted infrequently, including the Health Assessment Questionnaire (34.6%) and Disease Activity Score for 28 joints (8.9%).
Initial pharmacotherapy is consistent with guidelines from the period. The infrequent reporting of multiple DMARD combinations and formal assessment measures has implications for current clinical management and warrants contemporary reassessment.
To determine the proportion of patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) under rheumatologic care treated with disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARD) within 6 months from symptom onset and the components of time to treatment and its predictors.
A historical inception cohort of 339 patients with RA randomly selected from 18 rheumatology practices was audited. The proportion that initiated DMARD treatment within 6 months from symptom onset was estimated using Kaplan-Meier analysis. Time to each component of the care pathway was estimated. Multivariable modeling was used to determine predictors of early treatment using 12 preselected variables available in the clinical charts. Bootstrapping was used to validate the model.
Within 6 months from symptom onset, 41% (95% CI 36%-46%) of patients were treated with DMARD. The median time to treatment was 8.4 (interquartile range 3.8-24) months. Events preceding rheumatology referral accounted for 78.1% of the time to treatment. The most prominent predictor of increased time to treatment was a concomitant musculoskeletal condition, such as osteoarthritis or fibromyalgia. The significance of other variables was less consistent across the models investigated. Included variables accounted for 0.69 ± 0.03 of the variability in the model.
Fewer than 50% of patients with RA are treated with DMARD within 6 months from symptom onset. Time to referral to rheumatology represents the greatest component delay to treatment. Concomitant musculoskeletal condition was the most prominent predictor of delayed initiation of DMARD. Implications of these and other findings warrant further investigation.