Improved Survival

Improved survival in rheumatoid arthritis: a general population-based cohort study

Ann Rheum Dis doi:10.1136/annrheumdis-2015-209058


Mortality trends of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) are largely unknown over the past decade when new drugs and management strategies have been adopted to effectively treat RA.


Using The Health Improvement Network, an electronic medical record database representative of the UK general population, we identified patients with incident RA and up to five individuals without RA matched for age, sex and year of diagnosis between 1999 and 2014. The RA cohort was divided in two sub-cohorts based on the year of RA diagnosis: the early cohort (1999–2006) and the late cohort (2007–2014). We compared mortality rates, HRs (using a Cox proportional hazard model) and rate differences (using an additive hazard model) between RA and non-RA cohorts adjusting for potential confounders.


Patients with RA diagnosed between 1999 and 2006 had a considerably higher mortality rate than their comparison cohort (ie, 29.1 vs 18.0 deaths/1000 person-years), as compared with a moderate difference in patients with RA diagnosed between 2007 and 2014 and their comparison cohort (17.0 vs 12.9 deaths/1000 years). The corresponding absolute mortality rate differences were 9.5 deaths/1000 person-years (95% CIs 7.5 to 11.6) and 3.1 deaths/1000 person-years (95% CI 1.5 to 4.6) and the mortality HRs were 1.56 (95% CI 1.44 to 1.69) and 1.29 (95% CI 1.17 to 1.42), respectively (both p values for interaction <0.01).


This general population-based cohort study indicates that the survival of patients with RA has improved over the past decade to a greater degree than in the general population. Improved management of RA and its associated comorbidities over recent years may be providing a survival benefit.