To determine which disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) are currently used by Finnish rheumatologists to treat early rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
Information on sex, date of birth, and date of special medicine reimbursement decision for all new RA patients was collected from a nationwide register maintained by the Social Insurance Institution (SII) during the time period from 1 January 2000 to 31 December 2007. Patient cohorts were registered in 2-year time periods (2000-01, 2002-03, 2004-05, 2006-07) and DMARDs purchased by the patient cohorts during the first year after the date of reimbursement decision for RA were registered. The frequencies of early drug treatment strategies (combination of DMARDs, single DMARD, or no DMARDs) were evaluated.
A total of 14 878 (68.0% female, 62.6% rheumatoid factor (RF)-positive) patients were identified. Between 2000 and 2001 the most commonly used treatment strategy for early RA during the first 3 months was single DMARD treatment (56.1%) and the most commonly used DMARD during the first year was sulfasalazine (63.0%), while between 2006 and 2007 the respective treatments were combination DMARDs (55.3%) and methotrexate (69.0%). The change in treatment strategies as well as in DMARDs used was highly significant (p