The burden of illness of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) falls on patients, families and society through the direct costs, indirect costs, and intangible costs. A large number of RA cost-of-illness studies have been performed in recent decades with discrepant results due to patient heterogeneity, and different health-care organization, employment rate or social support, job opportunities, and methodologies used to calculate the costs. The greatest burden of RA is the indirect and the intangible costs, but how to estimate them remains controversial. The systematic use of traditional disease modifying anti rheumatic drugs has changed the evolution of the disease. However, a considerable improvement in the management of RA has been obtained since the advent of biologic response modifiers. The use of these drugs, which have demonstrated greater efficacy than conventional therapies, have tripled the direct costs of RA, which rose from about € 4000 to roughly € 12,000, in a period of five years, from 2000 to 2005. The present paper is aimed to examine the effects of this change in therapeutic strategy.
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