Objective. To assess whether publication of national treatment guidelines improved the management of early RA in the UK.
Methods. Incident diagnoses of RA in persons aged over 18 years from 1995 to 2010 were identified from the Clinical Practice Research Datalink. Using a natural experimental study design, interrupted time series analysis was used to assess whether trends in the proportion of patients receiving DMARDs, within 3 and 12 months of diagnosis, changed following publication of British Society for Rheumatology guidelines in 2006.
Results. Between 1995 and 2010, 11 772 incident cases of RA were identified. There was a progressive increase in the proportion of patients prescribed any DMARD within 12 months from 43.3% in 1995 to 78.5% in 2010. After publication of the British Society for Rheumatology guidelines, the proportion of patients prescribed any DMARD within 12 months increased by 4.2% (P = 0.053). Prior to the guidance, prescribing was increasing by 1.64% per year, compared with 3.55% per year after publication (P < 0.001).
Conclusion. Guidelines published by a national body can improve the proportion of patients receiving DMARD treatment in the first year after diagnosis of RA.