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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Minocycline and doxycycline therapy in community patients with rheumatoid arthritis: prescribing patterns, patient-level determinants of use, and patient-reported side effects

Christopher J Smith1, Harlan Sayles1, Ted R Mikuls1 and Kaleb Michaud12*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Internal Medicine, University of Nebraska Medical Center, 986270 Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, NE 68198-6270, USA

2 National Data Bank for Rheumatic Diseases, 1035 North Emporia, Suite 288, Wichita, KS 67214, USA

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Arthritis Research & Therapy 2011, 13:R168  doi:10.1186/ar3491

Published: 18 October 2011

Abstract

Introduction

Minocycline and doxycycline are safe and moderately effective disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) in the treatment of early, DMARD-naïve rheumatoid arthritis (RA), although little is known about their use outside clinical trials. We characterize the use of minocycline and doxycycline in community-dwelling RA patients by examining associated prescribing patterns, patient-level determinants of use, and side-effect profiles.

Methods

We studied 15,716 patients with RA observed between 1998 and 2009 while participating in a long-term US observational study.

Results

Minocycline or doxycycline was prescribed by 18% of rheumatologists (interquartile range one to two patients per physician) to 9% of RA patients. Significant differences between minocycline-treated and doxycycline-treated patients and nontreated patients included age (58.4 years vs. 59.8 years), RA duration (14.8 years vs. 13.7 years), Caucasian race (93.7% vs. 89.7%), lifetime DMARDs and biologics (3.3 vs. 2.5), prednisone use (40.1% vs. 35.3%), and Medical Outcomes Study 36-Item Short Form Survey physical component summary score (35.0 vs. 36.4). In multivariable Cox regression, patients initiating minocycline or doxycycline had increased disease activity, more comorbidities, and a greater number of prior nonbiologic DMARDs. Side effects were reported by 17.8% of minocycline users and 11.8% of doxycycline users. Skin complaints accounted for 54% of minocycline patient-reported side effects. The most commonly effected organ systems for doxycycline were gastrointestinal (35.4%) and skin (33.7%). Approximately 75% of side effects were of mild or moderate severity.

Conclusions

Rheumatologists have not embraced minocycline or doxycycline as primary treatment options for RA and reserve their use primarily in patients with long-standing, refractory disease. These drugs are generally well tolerated, with skin complaints, nausea, and dizziness being the most common patient-reported side effects.