Objective: To estimate comprehensive cost of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients to society and individual stakeholders, including patients/employees, employers, family members/caregivers, and government.
Research design and methods: Administrative claims databases covering privately insured and Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries in the US were used to compute the excess payer and beneficiary-paid costs per patient with RA compared with matched controls. Similarly, per-person excess costs for caregivers and uninsured patients with RA were estimated. Costs were estimated for other burdens, including costs of work-loss to employers, adaptations to home and work environments, lost on-the-job productivity, informal and hired care/household help, and job turnover costs. Intangible costs associated with quality-of-life deterioration were estimated based on legal system jury awards, whereas costs for premature mortality were based on lifetime earnings data. Per-capita cost estimates were weighted by the relevant population to estimate societal costs. Because data were incomplete, several assumptions were required; these assumptions could lead to an over- or under-estimation of cost burdens.
Results: Annual excess health care costs of RA patients were $8.4 billion, and costs of other RA consequences were $10.9 billion. These costs translate to a total annual cost of $19.3 billion. From a stakeholder perspective, 33% of the total cost was allocated to employers, 28% to patients, 20% to the government, and 19% to caregivers. Adding intangible costs of quality-of-life deterioration ($10.3 billion) and premature mortality ($9.6 billion), total annual societal costs of RA (direct, indirect, and intangible) increased to $39.2 billion.
Conclusions: Societal costs of RA in the US are $19.3 billion and $39.2 billion (in 2005 dollars) without and with intangible costs, respectively. This study was one of the first to attempt to quantify the comprehensive burdens of RA. Despite several assumptions made in areas in which few data exist, the findings generate useful insights into the full burden of RA.