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Access To Biologics For Arthritis Not Provided By Almost One-Quarter Of European Countries

Data from a study presented at EULAR 2012, the Annual Congress of the European League Against Rheumatism, demonstrates the vast inequalities in access to for the treatments of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) across 46 , with 22% (n=10) of countries having no biologic reimbursed at all.

In the 36 countries with reimbursed biologics, only 27 had more than five biologics reimbursed. The number of reimbursed drugs showed a moderate to very strong correlation with and an with RA . Annual average per patient prices ranged from €9,431 in Turkey to €21,349 in Germany. However after adjusting for parity*, prices ranged from $14,446 to $61,552 which had a strong with economic welfare and a positive correlation with RA health. This demonstrates that countries with a lower socio-economic status have reduced access to biologics and a worse health status.

“Numerous clinical recommendations point to the role of biologic disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) when targeting treatment of RA to DAS28** below 2.6 However, biologics are expensive and thus European countries with lower healthcare funding have restricted access to these treatments,” said Ms. Polina Putrik from Maastricht University, The Netherlands and lead author of the study. “The findings of this study should alert health authorities to further strive towards optimal, EU-wide standards for access to care because some of the patients who could benefit are being denied essential treatments.”

Further results of the Dutch study which included eight biologics (infliximab, etanercept, adalimumab, certolizumab pegol, golimumab, abatacept, tocilizumab and rituximab), showed that there were no consistent criteria across Europe for initiation of reimbursed biologics.

  • In over half of countries (58%), no minimum disease duration was needed to initiate biologic treatment, whilst in the remaining countries (42%), patients had to have RA for at least three to 12 months
  • Just under half of countries (47%) required failure on two synthetic DMARDs in order to qualify for biologic therapy
  • In 86% of countries, a minimum level of disease activity that had to be fulfilled before treatment with biologics was initiated; one third of this group had a DAS28≥3.2 requirement and over half had a stricter requirement

The presented study was designed as a questionnaire survey which was distributed to one representative rheumatologist in each of the 48 European countries. The questionnaire response rate was 96% (n=46). To ensure comparability, national prices were converted into international dollars ($) to adjust for the countries’ purchasing power parity. Data on GDP, health expenditure, median income and minimum wage were retrieved from web-based sources.


Abstract Number: OP0011, AB0490
*Purchasing Power Parity is an economic theory that asks how much money would be needed to purchase the same goods and services in two countries, and uses that to calculate an implicit foreign exchange rate. Using that rate, an amount of money thus has the same purchasing power in different countries. Among other uses, purchasing power parity rates facilitate international comparisons of income, as market exchange rates are often volatile, are affected by political and financial factors that do not lead to immediate changes in income and tend to systematically understate the standard of living in poor countries.
**DAS28 (Disease Activity Score) is an index used by physicians to measure how active an individual’s RA is. It assesses number of tender and swollen joints (out of a total of 28), levels of C-reactive protein (CRP, a protein found in the blood, the levels of which rise in response to inflammation), and the patient’s ‘global assessment of global health’. A higher score indicates more active disease. A score of <2.6 indicates that the patient is in remission.
European League Against Rheumatism