To study whether the work disability (WD) rates in early rheumatoid arthritis (RA) have changed in Finland, where the treatment of RA has long been active but has intensified further since 2000.
All incident non-retired patients with RA of working age (18-64 years) in a nationwide register maintained by the Finnish Social Insurance Institution from 1 January 2000 to 31 December 2007 were identified. Patient cohorts were analysed in 2-year time periods (2000-1, 2002-3, 2004-5, 2006-7) and initial disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) were elucidated from the drug purchase register. The incidence of continuous WD in the RA cohorts as well as in the entire Finnish population up to 31 December 2008 was analysed.
A total of 7831 patients were identified (71% women, 61% rheumatoid factor-positive). Throughout the follow-up period the use of methotrexate and combination DMARDs as the initial treatment of early RA increased. During the first 2 years the incidence of RA-related continuous WD was 8.9%, 9.4%, 7.2% and 4.8% in the year cohorts, respectively (p