Starting a disease modifying antirheumatic drug or a biologic agent in rheumatoid arthritis: Standards of practice for RA treatment

F. Wolfe, Q. Rehman, Nancy E Lane, J. Kremer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Our aim was to investigate the practices and standards by which disease modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARD) and biologics are and have been prescribed. We reviewed the literature and examined data from patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) participating in a national cohort: the National Data Bank for Rheumatic Diseases (NDB). Four pathways for DMARD prescription were identified: (1) A time-based pyramidal approach (the RA pyramid); (2) a severity-based pyramid in which the most effective treatment is given to those with more active disease; (3) a cost-based pathway in which the primary goal is cost containment - this pathway intertwines with the severity-based pathway; and (4) a patient preference pathway where treatment is geared to patient needs and wishes regardless of severity. Data show that the time-based and severity-based pathways are not generally used in contemporary expert practice, and that patients with all degrees of severity and disease duration are receiving DMARD and biologic treatment. With the abandonment of the pyramid and the development of effective therapy, rheumatic disease care has swung away from the imperative of time and severity-based treatment to the imperative of care based on patient preference. It is the standard of practice to treat patients with mild and early disease with aggressive therapy, with the goal of limiting subsequent damage and retarding progression, and with the realistic purpose of relieving symptoms. The standard may at times be in conflict with the goals of insurers, but there is no legitimate medical reason for such limitations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1704-1711
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Rheumatology
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • Disease modifying antirheumatic drugs
  • Outcome
  • Pyramid
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Treatment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rheumatology
  • Immunology


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