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Nov 04
Jeffrey Stark, MD, Head of U.S. Medical Immunology
Recognizing Non-Radiographic Axial Spondyloarthritis Patients

At UCB, we put our passion and expertise to work, bettering our understanding of severe diseases and making treatments more accessible to patients. Our work is guided by a commitment to supporting those who live with severe diseases, especially those who often feel like their voices are unheard. We were pleased by the recent decision by the ICD-10 Coordination and Maintenance Committee to formally index non-radiographic axial spondyloarthritis (nr-axSpA) to the ICD-10 sub-category M46. The indexed code, available as of October 1, 2020, is a positive step toward recognizing and tracking an undertreated condition.

UCB has also requested a new ICD-10 code for nr-axSpA, which, if approved, would be available October 1, 2021. The new code application is with the Coordination and Maintenance Committee, who will issue a decision next year. Simply put, a new code will serve as an efficient way for physicians to track patients with nr-axSpA, allowing a better understanding and identification of the disease. With the diagnostic code available as of October 1, 2020, the possibility of a new code in 2021, the nr-axSpA community can feel a real sense of progress as this undertreated condition is finally recognized in the coding system. 



Nr-axSpA is a subgroup of axial spondyloarthritis (axSpA), a spectrum of inflammatory diseases which includes nr-axSpA and ankylosing spondylitis. nr-axSpA mainly affects the spine and sacroiliac joints and is often undiagnosed and not appropriately treated. In nr-axSpA, definitive evidence of the disease is not evident on an x-ray. Disease onset typically begins in early adulthood and may cause chronic and debilitating back pain, stiffness, and fatigue, often having a profound impact on patients’ lives.

Historically, the lack of ICD-10 coding for nr-axSpA created an immense roadblock for providers and patients trying to obtain treatment. Two years ago, UCB and U.S. professional rheumatology organizations along with patient advocacy groups rallied together as UCB presented this issue to the ICD-10 Coordination and Maintenance Committee to advocate for the need for nr-axSpA to have its own ICD-10 code. The acceptance of this new index leaves rheumatologists optimistic for what it means for new disease state processes as they emerge. 

The establishment of a discrete code for nr-axSpA also benefits researchers who are looking for new treatments, as it creates opportunities to better study and understand this patient community. For our team at UCB, these new data will allow us to be more informed as we address the needs of nr-axSpA patients. 

At UCB, empowering patients through efficient diagnosis, treatment and access to healthcare is at the heart of what we do. Recognizing these patient populations through a new diagnostic code may seem like a small step, but it unlocks a world of possibilities for future treatment and demonstrates to those who have previously suffered in silence that the medical community is listening. As a UCB team, we are proud of this collaborative step as it is a fundamental building block for patients navigating nr-axSpA. 

For UCB’s statement on the update, click here and for more information on nr-axSpA, click here. More information on the specific ICD-10 coding changes is available on the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Service (CMS) website. Check back for information about the Coordination and Maintenance Committee’s decision on the new code.