Lupus flares significantly contribute to health resource utilization and hospitalizations. Identification of flare activity may be hindered since validated assessment scales are rarely used in clinical practice and flare severity may fall below clinician-assessed thresholds. Therefore, patient-reported outcomes of lupus flare frequency are important assessment tools for lupus management.
To better understand the relationship between lupus flares as reported by persons with lupus and specific direct and indirect costs, including hospital admission, unplanned urgent care (UC)/emergency department (ED) visits, work productivity loss, and nonwork activity impairment.
In this cross-sectional analysis, persons with lupus were drawn from 2 enriched sampling sources. Data were collected via an online survey and included individuals with self-reported physician’s diagnosis of systemic lupus erythematosus, skin or discoid lupus, or lupus nephritis. Respondents were asked the total number of hospitalizations and ED/UC visits for any reason and for lupus-related hospitalizations and ED/UC visits. Work productivity loss and nonwork activity impairment were measured via the Work Productivity and Activity Impairment – General Health scale. The sample was stratified into those with 0 flares, 1-3 flares, 4-6 flares, and 7 or more flares, with 0 flares used as the reference. Chi-square tests for trend and analyses of variance were used to evaluate differences among flare frequency groups. Multivariable regression modeling was conducted to evaluate the independent relationship of flare frequency to health care use and productivity loss.
We studied 1,288 survey respondents with known flare frequency in the past 12 months. Flare frequency increased with duration of illness. The mean number of lupus-related hospital admissions was significantly associated with increasing flare frequency for the total sample (F = 3.9; < 0.009). Compared to patients with no flare, those who reported flare activities had 1.72-3.13 times higher rates of hospitalizations. The mean number of lupus-related ED/UC visits were also found to be significantly associated with increasing flare frequency for the total sample (F = 23.4; < 0.001), and rates were increased by 6.98- to 16.12-fold for unplanned ED/UC visits depending on flare frequency. Rates of employment were significantly related to increasing flare frequency. With respect to work-related impairment, absenteeism increased with greater lupus flare frequency (F = 6.2; < 0.001), as did presenteeism (F = 31.5; < 0.001) and the combined value of total work productivity loss (F = 30.4; < 0.001). Mean work-related activity impairment was 12%-32% more among patients who reported flare activities compared to those who reported no flares.
Increased lupus-related flare frequency is associated with worsened patient outcomes as measured by increased hospitalizations, visits to the ED/UC, work productivity loss, and activity impairment. This association may be an important indicator of disease severity and resource burden and therefore suggests an unmet need among patients experiencing lupus-related flares.
This study was sponsored by Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals via grants to Vedanta Research and The Lupus Foundation of America. Katz received consulting fees from Vedanta Research, which received grant support from Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals to support data collection and analysis. Nelson and Connolly-Strong are employees of Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals and are stockholders in the company. Reed is an employee of Vedanta Research. Daly and Topf are employees of the Lupus Foundation of America, which received grant funding to support data collection. This study was a podium presentation at The American College of Rheumatology (ACR) Annual Meeting 2018; October 19-24, 2018; Chicago, IL.

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