Objective: To study, for the first time, service utilization and costs in fibromyalgia, a prevalent syndrome associated with high levels of pain, functional disability, and emotional distress.
Methods: Five hundred thirty-eight fibromyalgia patients from 6 rheumatology centers were enrolled in a 7-year prospective study of fibromyalgia outcome. Patients were assessed every 6 months with validated, mailed questionnaires which included questions regarding fibromyalgia symptoms and severity, utilization of services, and work disability.
Results: Fibromyalgia patients averaged almost 10 outpatient medical visits per year, and when nontraditional treatments were considered, this number increased to approximately 1 visit per month. Patients were hospitalized at a rate of 1 hospitalization every 3 years. In each 6-month study period, patients used a mean of 2.7 fibromyalgia-related drugs. Costs increased over the course of the study. The mean yearly per-patient cost in 1996 dollars was $2,274. However, results were skewed by high utilizers, and many patients used few services and had limited costs. Total costs and utilization were independently associated with the number of self-reported comorbid or associated conditions, functional disability, and global disease severity. Compared with patients with other rheumatic disorders, those with fibromyalgia were more likely to have lifetime surgical interventions, including back or neck surgery, appendectomy, carpal tunnel surgery, gynecologic surgery, abdominal surgery, and tonsillectomy, and were more likely than other rheumatic disease patients to report comorbid or associated conditions. Almost 50% of hospitalizations occurring during the study were related to fibromyalgia-associated symptoms.
Conclusion: The average yearly cost for service utilization among fibromyalgia patients is $2,274. Fibromyalgia patients have high lifetime and current rates of utilization of all types of medical services. They report more symptoms and comorbid or associated conditions than patients with other rheumatic conditions, and symptom reporting is linked to service utilization and, to a lesser extent, functional disability and global disease severity.