Objective: We sought to investigate the cost of living with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and evaluate the influence of both demographics and specific disease characteristics on these costs.
Methods: We used a population-based questionnaire to survey 895 patients living in the city of Malmö, Sweden, during 2002. Data were obtained on direct resource consumption, investments, informal care and work capacity, as well as utility, function and patients' assessment of disease severity and pain.
Results: The survey was completed by 613 patients (68%). Their mean age was 66 years, 74% were female and the mean duration of disease was 16.7 years. The total mean annual cost per patient was 108,370 SEK (12,020 EUR). Direct costs represented 41% of that amount and were predominantly for drugs [14% of the participants were receiving treatment with tumour necrosis factor (TNF) blockers], community services and hospitalisation. Function measured with the Health Assessment Questionnaire (HAQ) was the main statistical predictor for all types of costs except sick leave, which was most strongly associated with patients' perception of global health.
Conclusion: This is the first study in Sweden to include all costs incurred by a group representative of RA in the community. In comparison with previous studies, total costs had increased by more than 40%. Furthermore, direct costs were higher and constituted a great proportion of total costs because of more intensive treatments (i.e. the use of TNF blockers). Future comparisons will enable health economic evaluations on a community level.