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The Economic Impact Of Arthritis On The US
02 May 2007
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and other rheumatic conditions exact a large and growing economic toll
on the nation as a result of the increase in numbers of persons
affected, rather than an increase in mean expenditures and earnings
losses," attests Charles G. Helmick, M.D., at the National Center for
Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion of the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention. He bases his conclusion on a nationwide
assessment of medical expenditures and earnings losses associated with
arthritis in 2003, compared with figures six years before. The findings
and their implications are featured in the May issue of Arthritis
report was motivated by growing concerns about the individual and
collective economic burden of arthritis, fueled by rising medical
costs, from joint replacement surgery to biologic agents, and the ranks
of aging Baby Boomers. A team of researchers derived estimates for 2003
from the Medical Expenditures Panel Survey (MEPS), a national
probability sample of households. They tabulated medical care
expenditures of adult respondents, stratified by arthritis status, and
used regression techniques to assess the increment of medical care
expenditures attributable to arthritis and related rheumatic diseases.
They also calculated the earnings losses of working-age adults with
these disabling conditions. Then, they compared estimates for 2003 with
those from 1997, inflated to 2003 terms.
compelling findings about the state of arthritis in the United States:
Between 1997 and 2003, the prevalence of arthritis and other rheumatic
conditions increased from 36.8 million adults (18.7 percent of the
population) to 46.1 million adults (21.5 percent of the population).
1997 and 2003, expenditures for arthritis medications almost doubled.
The increase in spending for prescription drugs was a result of both
the mean number of prescriptions, from 18.7 to 25.2 per person, and the
mean cost per prescription, from $48 to $65. During this period,
inpatient expenditures declined from $508 to $352 per person. As a
result, the average total spent on medical care for an individual with
arthritis remained surprisingly stable: $1,762 in 1997 and $1,752 in
In 2003, Americans spent a total of $80.8 billion on medical care for
arthritis, compared with $64.8 billion in 1997. Researchers attributed
this rise wholly to the increase in the number of persons 18 years and
older with arthritis.
In 2003, employed adults with arthritis earned an average of $3,613
less than healthy working adults between the ages of 18 and 64.
Nationwide, raw earnings losses due to arthritis totalled $108 billion,
up from $99 billion in 1997.
the number arthritis sufferers is projected to increase steadily to
nearly 67 million by 2030, as Dr. Helmick notes, the economic toll
threatens to continue to escalate. He calls urgent attention to the
need for cost-effective efforts to decrease medical expenses and
increase the earning power of people with arthritis. To counteract
disability and unemployment, possible interventions include
self-management education and community-based programs to promote
physical activity. "Population aging need not necessarily result in a
proportionate increase in the economic impact of arthritis and other
rheumatic conditions," Dr. Helmick assures.
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