Objective: Osteoarthritis is the most common musculoskeletal disease, with about 9-10 million patients in France including 4.6 million with symptoms. The objective of the COART France study is to evaluate the cost of osteoarthritis in France from the societal point of view and to compare the results to those obtained in 1993 using the same methodology.
Materials and methods: The cost of osteoarthritis was evaluated using the macroeconomic approach. Direct costs were estimated from healthcare resource use (physician visits, drug prescriptions, and hospital admissions) and indirect costs from doctor-prescribed sick-leave durations.
Results: Direct costs of osteoarthritis in 2002 exceeded 1.6 billion Euros, contributing about 1.7% of expenses of the French health insurance system, which covers all residents of France regardless of employment or documentation status. Hospital admissions were the greatest single contributor to direct costs, with more than 800 million Euros. Osteoarthritis led to 13 million physician visits, during which 570 million Euros worth of medications were prescribed. The 156% increase in direct medical costs compared to 1993 was chiefly related to an increase in the number of patients (+54%); the cost increase per patient was only 2.5% per year.
Conclusion: Despite the large increase in the number of treated patients and the development of new costly medications, the rise in the cost of managing osteoarthritis seems well contained. The aging of the population, development of new technologies, and increasing patient expectations will probably govern the future economic impact of osteoarthritis, which remains a major public health burden.