Comparative effectiveness of treatments for rheumatoid arthritis in clinical practice: A systematic review

Jeffrey A. Sparks, Leslie R. Harrold, Teresa A. Simon, Keith Wittstock, Sheila Kelly, Karissa Lozenski, Vadim Khaychuk, Kaleb Michaud

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Objective: To assess real-world comparative effectiveness studies of biologic (b) and targeted synthetic (ts) disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) in adults with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) through a systematic review. Methods: We searched Medline for journal articles (2001–2021) and Embase® for abstracts presented at the European Alliance of Associations for Rheumatology and American College of Rheumatology (ACR) 2020 and 2021 annual meetings on non-randomized studies comparing the effectiveness of b/tsDMARDs using ACR-recommended disease activity measures, measures of functional status, and patient-reported outcomes (HAQ, PROMIS PF, patient pain, Patient and Physician Global Assessment of disease activity). Methodological heterogeneity between studies precluded meta-analyses. Risk of bias was assessed using the Cochrane Risk Of Bias In Non-randomized Studies of Interventions-I tool. Results: Of 1283 records screened, 68 were selected for data extraction, of which 1 was excluded due to critical risk of bias. Most studies were multicenter observational cohort/registry studies (n = 60) and were published between 2011 and 2021 (n = 60). Mean or median reported RA duration was between 6 and 15 years. Disease Activity Score in 28 joints (46 studies), Clinical Disease Activity Index (37 studies), and Health Assessment Questionnaire-Disability Index (32 studies) were the most common outcomes used in clinical practice, with regional differences identified. The most common comparison was between tumor necrosis factor inhibitors (TNFis) and non-TNFi bDMARDs (35 studies). There were no evident differences between b/tsDMARDs in clinical effectiveness. Conclusion: This systematic review summarizing real-world evidence from a very large number of global studies found there are many effective options for the treatment of RA, but relatively less evidence to support the use of any one b/tsDMARD or drug class over another. Treatment for patients with RA should be tailored to suit individual clinical profiles. Further research is needed to identify whether specific patient subgroups may benefit from specific drug classes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number152249
JournalSeminars in Arthritis and Rheumatism
StatePublished - Oct 2023


  • Biologic DMARD (bDMARD)
  • Comparative Effectiveness
  • Real-World Data
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Systematic Review
  • targeted-synthetic DMARD (tsDMARD)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rheumatology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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