Rheumatoid factor testing in Spanish primary care: A population-based cohort study including 4.8 million subjects and almost half a million measurements.
Morsley K., Miller A., Luqmani R., Fina-Aviles F., Javaid MK., Edwards CJ., Pinedo-Villanueva R., Medina M., Calero S., Cooper C., Arden N., Prieto-Alhambra D.
OBJECTIVE: Rheumatoid factor (RF) testing is used in primary care in the diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis (RA); however a positive RF may occur without RA. Incorrect use of RF testing may lead to increased costs and delayed diagnoses. The aim was to assess the performance of RF as a test for RA and to estimate the costs associated with its use in a primary care setting. MATERIAL AND METHODS: A retrospective cohort study using the Information System for the Development of Research in Primary Care database (contains primary care records and laboratory results of >80% of the Catalonian population, Spain). Participants were patients ≥18 years with ≥1 RF test performed between 01/01/2006 and 31/12/2011, without a pre-existing diagnosis of RA. Outcome measures were an incident diagnosis of RA within 1 year of testing, and the cost of testing per case of RA. RESULTS: 495,434/4,796,498 (10.3%) patients were tested at least once. 107,362 (21.7%) of those tested were sero-positive of which 2768 (2.6%) were diagnosed with RA within 1 year as were 1141/388,072 (0.3%) sero-negative participants. The sensitivity of RF was 70.8% (95% CI 69.4-72.2), specificity 78.7% (78.6-78.8), and positive and negative predictive values 2.6% (2.5-2.7) and 99.7% (99.6-99.7) respectively. Approximately €3,963,472 was spent, with a cost of €1432 per true positive case. CONCLUSIONS: Although 10% of patients were tested for RF, most did not have RA. Limiting testing to patients with a higher pre-test probability would significantly reduce the cost of testing.