Objective: Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic and disabling disease frequently leading to physical and psychological dependence, with considerable economic consequences. The aim of our study was to perform a cost-of-illness analysis for RA according to the four different levels of functional RA severity.
Methods: Direct costs (hospitalisations, treatments, diagnostics and the non-medical costs), indirect costs (productivity losses and informal care), and intangible costs (deterioration in the quality of life of patients, their families and friends assessed by the Medical Outcome Survey Short Form and the Stanford Health Assessment Questionnaire) were measured in 200 RA patients.
Results: The social costs--direct plus indirect costs--increased as RA worsened. The direct costs increase very significantly (p < 0.0005) among the four functional classes (respectively Euro 1643.4 - 2910.2 - 4236.5 - 5696.8), likewise the indirect costs (respectively Euro 2704.9 - 9566.4 - 12183.1 - 17249.2). Moreover social costs, analysed independently from the functional classes, are significantly higher in patients with other concomitant diseases. As far as the intangible costs are concerned, for all the areas explored by the scales used, the high impact of RA on the quality of life of RA patients was markedly evident. Female gender and co-morbidity are associated with higher costs.
Conclusions: In Italy, the indirect costs account for the highest cost for management of RA patients. Considering that costs increase with RA progression, the patients who show a rapid evolution of the functional damages should be identified early based on risk indicators.