Open Access Research article

Trends in the treatment changes and medication persistence of chronic myeloid leukemia in Taiwan from 1997 to 2007: a longitudinal population database analysis

Chao-Sung Chang12, Yi-Hsin Yang34, Chien-Ning Hsu56* and Min-Ting Lin2

Author Affiliations

1 Division of Hematology and Oncology, Department of Internal Medicine, Kaohsiung Medical University Hospital, Kaohsiung, Taiwan

2 Graduate Institute of Healthcare Administration, Kaohsiung Medical University, Kaohsiung, Taiwan

3 School of Pharmacy, Kaohsiung Medical University, Kaohsiung, Taiwan

4 Cancer Center, Kaohsiung Medical University Hospital, Kaohsiung, Taiwan

5 Department of Pharmacy, Kaohsiung Chang Gung Memorial Hospital and Chang Gung University College of Medicine, 123 Dabi Rd., Kaohsiung, 833, Kaohsiung, Taiwan

6 Graduate Institute of Clinical Pharmacy, College of Pharmacy, Kaohsiung Medical University, Kaohsiung, Taiwan

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BMC Health Services Research 2012, 12:359  doi:10.1186/1472-6963-12-359

Published: 16 October 2012



Few studies have examined the longitudinal changes in the patterns, selection, and utilization of treatments for chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) in routine clinical practice since the introduction of imatinib. Therefore, we investigated the trends in CML therapy, including changes, patterns, and persistence to imatinib therapy among patients with newly diagnosed CML.


We conducted a cross-sectional and longitudinal analysis of 11 years of claims data for patients with newly diagnosed CML included in the Taiwan National Health Insurance program. Pharmacy and diagnosis claims for newly diagnosed CML recorded between 1997 and 2007 year were extracted from the database. Annual overall use, new use of CML therapy, and persistence to imatinib therapy were estimated. The Anatomical Therapeutic Chemical codes for CML therapy [i.e., imatinib and conventional therapy: busulfan, hydroxyurea, interferon-α (IFNα), and cytarabine], and the process code for hematopoietic stem cell transplantation were used to categorize treatment patterns. Associations with patients characteristics were analyzed by multivariate logistic regression.


Overall, the proportion of patients with newly diagnosed CML to all patients with CML increased by approximately 4-fold between 1998 and 2007. There were steady increases in the proportions of all treated patients and those starting therapy from 2003 to 2007. Fewer comorbid conditions and lower severity of CML were associated with treatment initiation. Medication persistence varied according to treatment duration, as 38.7% patients continued imatinib for ≥ 18 months without interruption but only 7.7% continued imatinib for ≥ 5 years. Factors associated with persistence to imatinib therapy were removal of the need for prior authorization for imatinib, and prior use of hydroxyurea and IFNα, whereas having undergone hematopoietic stem cell transplantation led to reduced likelihood of persistence to imatinib therapy.


Treatment decisions for patients with CML changed over time in routine clinical practice. Our findings suggest that clinicians are increasingly adopting the recommendations of international treatment guidelines for CML. However, persistence to imatinib therapy is still substantially below the recommended level based on current evidence for its efficacy. Our study also highlights the need to improve treatment persistence and effectiveness of imatinib over the long term.

Chronic myeloid leukemia; Imatinib; Medication persistence; Utilization; Target therapy