Clin Exp Rheumatol. 2021 Dec 13. Online ahead of print.
OBJECTIVES: Giant cell arteritis (GCA) afflicts older adults who may have age- and comorbidity-related risks for infection and is treated with immunosuppressants that increase risk of infection. We examined GCA treatment patterns and rates of serious infections in two real-world cohorts in the U.S.
METHODS: We identified two GCA cohorts using two U.S. health insurance databases, Medicare (public, 2007-2017) and MarketScan (commercial, 2015-2019), by applying a validated claims-based algorithm with positive predictive value 79.0% for GCA. We required age ≥50 years and assessed baseline comorbidities, dispensing of immunosuppressants and prophylactic antibiotics, and vaccine administration. We calculated incidence rates (IR) of serious infections, defined as bacterial or viral infections requiring hospitalisation based on primary inpatient diagnosis code. Multivariable Cox proportional hazards models estimated hazard ratios for risk of serious infection for prespecified covariates.
RESULTS: The Medicare cohort included 734 patients, 28% male, mean age 77.1; the MarketScan cohort included 1022 patients, 30% male, mean age 68.4. More than 85% used prednisone ≥60mg daily at index date and <10% used tocilizumab. Serious infections developed in 27.9% of Medicare and 7.2% of MarketScan patients: IR per 100 person-years = 10.7 (95% CI 9.3, 12.2) in Medicare and 6.3 (95% CI 5.0, 7.9) in MarketScan. Older age and higher frailty score were significantly associated with increased risk for serious infection.
CONCLUSIONS: In these two U.S. GCA cohorts, high-dose glucocorticoids were the most common initial treatment, and over 25% of Medicare and 7% of MarketScan patients developed serious infection during follow-up. Older age and higher frailty score were associated with higher risk of serious infections, though maximum daily prednisone dose was not. Pneumocystis jiroveci pneumonia was rare in two GCA cohorts despite infrequent use of prophylactic antibiotics.