Background: Infliximab and etanercept have been included in the Israeli national list of health services since 2002 for rheumatoid arthritis and juvenile idiopathic arthritis, and since 2005 for psoriatic arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis. The regulator (Ministry of Health and health funds) mandates using fixed doses of infliximab as the first drug of choice and increased dosage is not allowed. For other indications (e.g., vasculitis), anti-tumor necrosis factor therapy is given on a "compassionate" basis in severe refractory disease.
Objectives: To describe our experience with anti-TNF therapy in a single tertiary referral center in northern Israel and to analyze the impact of the national health policy on the results.
Methods: We reviewed the medical records of patients who received anti-TNF therapy in our institution, and analyzed demographic data, diagnosis, clinical and laboratory features, previous and current therapies, and anti-TNF treatment duration and side effects.
Results: Between 2001 and 2006, 200 patients received anti-TNF therapy for rheumatoid arthritis (n=108), juvenile idiopathic arthritis(n=11), psoriatic arthritis (n=37), ankylosing spondylitis (n=29), adult Still's disease (n=4), overlap disease (RA and scleroderma or polymyositis, n=6), temporal arteritis (n=1), polyarteritis nodosa (n=1), dermatomyositis (n=1), amyloidosis secondary to RA (n=1) and Wegener's granulomatosis (n=1). Forty percent of RA patients discontinued the first anti-TNF agent due to side effects or insufficient response. Higher sedimentation rate and lower or negative rheumatoid factor predicted better response to therapy among RA patients. AS and PS patients had a better safety and efficacy profile. Severe infections occurred in 2% of patients. All eight patients who presented lung involvement as part of their primary rheumatic disease remained stable or improved. A significant improvement was achieved in all six patients with overlap disease.
Conclusion: Our daily practice data are generally in agreement with worldwide experience. The ‘deviations’ might be explained by the local health policy at that time. The impact of health policy and economic and administrative constraints should be taken into account when analyzing cohort daily practice data.