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The cost of osteoarthritis

Issue 29 Synovium (Spring 2010)

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One of those studies where the figures make the brain dizzy was recently published in Arthritis and Rheumatism.1 The study uses data from health insurance claims to calculate the medical costs of osteoarthritis (OA) in the United States. (Remember this is based on people who are able to afford health insurance – and, as President Obama announced in 2009, almost 50 million Americans can’t.) Over 27 million Americans were estimated by the National Arthritis Data Workgroup to be suffering from OA, and this study found that annual medical costs attributable to OA were a staggering $185.5 billion. It is predicted that by 2030, 67 million people in the USA – or 25% of the adult population – will suffer from OA.

Given that it is unlikely that medical care will become any cheaper over the next 20 years (or that people will die at a younger age), the potential medical care costs will be truly mind-boggling. Of course, this is the USA and medical care is very much more expensive than in the UK; however, the predicted demographics for life expectancy, obesity and sedentary lifestyles appear to be indicating rapid increase in the prevalence of OA here too. Given the economic climate and expectations of a significant period of austerity, life is going to be difficult for OA sufferers unless we can achieve significant improvement in prevention strategies and find treatments to delay progression.

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