Objective: Compared to rheumatoid arthritis (RA), osteoarthritis (OA) is considered much more benign and much less costly. We sought to describe the economic effects of RA and OA, in terms of the indirect and nonmedical expenditures, compared to nonarthritic controls.
Methods: Using our unique population based data resources, we developed a model for estimating and comparing disease specific costs among 2 randomly selected, community based samples of 200 patients each with RA and OA and a control group of 200 individuals from the same community who do not have arthritis. Data were collected using a pretested postal survey. Age and sex adjusted comparisons were conducted across the 3 groups, and predictors of cost and utilization were identified using logistic regression modeling.
Results: There were 123, 116, and 94 respondents among the RA, OA, and nonarthritis groups, respectively. The average age and the female-to-male ratios were higher in the OA and RA groups compared to the nonarthritis group. Patients with RA and OA required 3 times more days of care for their conditions compared to nonarthritics (p < 0.0001) and incurred significantly more expenditures for home or child care (p = 0.01) and other services (p = 0.001) (i.e., medical equipment, assistive devices, or home remodeling) compared to nonarthritics. In addition, patients with RA were significantly more likely to have lost their job or to have retired early due to their illness (p = 0.001); were the most likely to have reduced their work hours or stopped working entirely due to their illness (p = 0.003); and were 3 times more likely to have had a reduction in household family income than either individuals with OA or those without arthritis (p = 0.0001). Fifteen percent of respondents with RA were unable to get a job because of their illness, while 3% of respondents with OA and only 1% of nonarthritic respondents reported this experience (p = 0.001). Logistic regression analysis revealed that functional status and pain score, as well as the presence of either RA or OA, were significant predictors of cost and health services utilization.
Conclusion: Disease specific indirect and nonmedical costs for OA are substantial and approach those for RA. This has important societal implications, given the high prevalence of OA.