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Pharmacoeconomics. 2001;19(7):715-28.

A clinical and economic review of disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs.

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Health Sciences Research, Mayo Foundation, Rochester, Minnesota 55905, USA.


Rheumatoid arthritis is one of the most common chronic systemic inflammatory diseases, affecting approximately 1% of the adult population. Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) have been the mainstay of treatment for rheumatoid arthritis when combined with physical therapy and aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid) or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Recently, a number of new biological therapies have been introduced for the treatment of this condition and will have a major impact on the future management of this disabling disease. In this review, we summarise data on the efficacy and tolerability of the currently available DMARDs, including gold compounds, antimalarials, penicillamine, cytotoxic drugs (azathioprine and cyclophosphamide), sulfasalazine, methotrexate, leflunomide, cyclosporin, anti-tumour necrosis factor agents, combination therapy and apheresis. A literature review and quality assessment of economic evaluations of DMARDs is presented, illustrating that there has been a paucity of economic evaluations on these agents and showing the variable quality of those studies that are available. The manuscript also addresses the pharmacoeconomic implications of the new agents for rheumatoid arthritis; the need for formal long term economic evaluations in order to determine the cost effectiveness of these costly, but highly effective, new treatments is emphasised.

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