Antirheumatic Medicine Prescribing Patterns and Direct Medicine Costs in the South African Private Health Sector



To describe antirheumatic medicine prescribing patterns and to estimate the total annual direct medicine cost of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) in the private health sector of South Africa.


A retrospective, cross-sectional drug utilization study was performed on medicine claims data from January 1, 2014, to December 31, 2014, for a total of 4,352 patients with RA. Patients were divided into those with RA only and those with RA and other chronic disease list conditions. Antirheumatic treatment was categorized into bridge therapy (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs [NSAIDs] and corticosteroids only) and therapy for advanced disease (NSAIDs, corticosteroids, and disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs [DMARDs] or biologics). Cost-driving products, the 90% drug utilization (DU90%) segment, mean, and median medicine item costs were calculated.


Annual direct RA medicine cost summed to €4,115,569.70. The mean ± SD (median) cost per medicine item was €45.87 ± €250.35 (€9.01). DMARDs represented 47.6% (n = 42,699) and biologics 2.4% (n = 2,150) of the 89,728 medicine items claimed. The DU90% of bridge therapy products accounted for 92.8% of the total medicine cost, with celecoxib as the main cost driver because of high volume and mean cost. The therapy for advanced disease DU90% segment accounted for 34.7% of the total medicine cost, with adalimumab as the main cost driver because of high mean cost.


The direct medicine treatment cost of RA in the South African private health sector is driven by the high volume of DMARDs and the high mean costs of biologics, particularly adalimumab.


Nericke Olivier Martie Lubbe Rianda Joubert Adele Naudé Johanita Burger

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