Consensus development on eligibility of government subsidisation of biologic disease modifying anti-rheumatic agents for treatment of ankylosing spondylitis: The Singapore experience

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The beneficial effects of biologic disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (bDMARDs), such as tumour necrosis factor inhibitors (anti-TNF) in active ankylosing spondylitis (AS) are well established. The significant costs on patients in the absence of financial subsidization can limit their use. The objective was to describe a consensus development process on recommendations for government-assisted funding of biologic therapy for AS patients in Singapore.


Evidence synthesis followed by a modified RAND/UCLA Appropriateness Method (RAM) was used. Eleven rheumatologists rated indications for therapies for different proposed clinical scenarios. Points reflecting the output from the formal group consensus were used to formulate 10 practice recommendations.


It was agreed that a bDMARD (anti-TNF) is indicated if a patient has active AS with a Bath Ankylosing Spondylitis Activity Index (BASDAI) ≥ 4 and spinal pain of ≥ 4 cm on visual analogue scale (VAS) on two occasions at least 12 weeks apart, despite being on a minimum of two sequential non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs at maximal tolerated dose for at least 4 weeks, in addition to adherence to an appropriate physiotherapy program for at least 3 months. To qualify for continued biologic therapy, a patient must have documentation of response every 3 months and at least 50% improvement in BASDAI and reduction of spinal pain VAS ≥ 2 cm.


A validated and feasible consensus process can enable pragmatic standardized recommendations to be developed for bDMARD subsidization for AS patients in a local Asian context.

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