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Asian Countries Cannot Afford To Ignore the Cost of Rheumatoid Arthritis

SINGAPORE, Sept. 14 /PRNewswire-Asia/ -- A new initiative launched today by the Asia-Pacific League of Associations for Rheumatology (APLAR) aims to raise awareness of the need to diagnose and treat rheumatoid arthritis (RA) early in order to relieve the enormous social, economic and personal burden the disease places on patients, communities and governments across the region.

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The Every Day Counts campaign has been developed to highlight the fact that for every day a patient with RA remains undiagnosed and untreated he pays an unnecessary personal price. At the same time, society and communities face a significant financial cost through increased unemployment and welfare payments, and greater healthcare spending on extended hospital stays.

"In times of economic uncertainty and ageing populations countries simply can't afford to have people with chronic illnesses needlessly out of work and draining valuable government budgets," said Dr. Ho-Youn Kim, President, Asia- Pacific League of Associations for Rheumatology (APLAR). "Treatments do exist that have been proven to reduce the burden of this disease and widespread adoption of early diagnosis and treatment regimens could help to significantly reduce the cost of this disease to both societies and individuals."

"Early effective treatment may not only postpone, slow, or even stop disease progression but also decrease costs by preserving productivity and reducing the need for surgery, hospital admissions and social service utilization," continued Dr. Kim. "We hope that this initiative will help to highlight the need to treat RA early and effectively, because every day that a patient remains untreated has far reaching consequences."

Burden of Disease

The World Health Organization assesses the economic burden of RA on three levels-direct, indirect and psychosocial costs.(1) Direct costs to governments can be substantial. For example in the United States, a systematic review revealed that the average annual medical cost associated with RA is US$5,720 per patient of which in-patient cost is the largest component.(2) Across Asia- Pacific the costs are equally high. For instance:

    -- In Korea, the economic burden of RA is estimated to be US$624.9 million,
       equivalent to 0.11 per cent of the GNP.(3)
    -- In China, Japan and Taiwan RA affects 0.3 per cent of the population in
       each country-or 4 million, 380,000 and 69,000 people respectively.(4, 5,
    -- In Australia, arthritis costs A$24 billion each year in healthcare,
       lost time at work, shortened lives, and years spent with disability.(7)
    -- In Thailand, the average societal cost of RA is estimated to be
       US$2,682, 41.4 per cent of a patient's average annual income. Direct
       and indirect costs are estimated to be US$2,135 and US$547 per patient
       per year, respectively.(8)
    -- In Malaysia, RA affects about 0.5 per cent of adults between the ages
       of 25 and 50.(9)

Indirect costs such as morbidity (productivity losses borne by the individual, their family, society and employer due to illness) and mortality (the present value of lost production due to premature death caused by illness) are also substantial. Indeed, work disability among people with RA is significantly higher than in the general population. Research has shown that two-thirds of people with RA lose an average of 39 working days each year.(10) Moreover, another study demonstrated that nearly a quarter of patients experience a reduction in income.(11)

Treating only the symptoms of RA can reduce a person's lifespan by about 10 years.(12) Without proper treatment, people with RA face a life-long battle with a disease that results in serious joint damage and disability.

Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) are currently the first line of treatment for RA. RA patients treated with DMARDs experience suppressed disease activity and reduced joint damage. However, oral DMARDs such as methotrexate have not been able to fully prevent gradual joint deterioration. With the development of biologic agents, remission (full suppression of disease activity with no worsening of joint damage) is now a realistic therapeutic goal in a greater proportion of patients. These agents can suppress disease activity directly and effectively, slow or stop progression of joint/radiologic damage, and prevent further loss of quality of life.(13)

Notes to editors


Every Day Counts-a new initiative from APLAR-aims to raise awareness of the need to diagnose and treat rheumatoid arthritis early. Activities will be taking place to reach doctors, patients and governments across the Asia- Pacific region throughout the year.


APLAR's mission and goals focus on providing state-of-the-art care to patients with arthritis and other musculoskeletal diseases through the continuous professional development of members, increasing the awareness and understanding of rheumatic diseases, patient advocacy and empowerment, and fostering research in the field of rheumatic diseases. APLAR was established in 1963 in Sydney and is affiliated to the ILAR (International League of Associations for Rheumatology).

    This activity is proudly supported by Wyeth.


    1. World Health Organization (2003). The burden of musculoskeletal
       conditions at the start of the new millennium (WHO Technical Report
       Series, 919).
    2. Cooper N.J. (2000). Economic burden of rheumatoid arthritis: a
       systematic review. Rheumatology, 39, 28-33.
    3. Yoon SJ, Bae SC, Lee SI, Chang HJ, Jo HS, Sung JH, Park JH, Lee JY &
       Shin YS (2007). Measuring the burden of the disease in Korea. The
       Korean Academy of Medical Sciences, 22, 518-23.
    4. Rheumatoid Arthritis Therapeutics in China. Medical News Today, (10
       April 2009).
    5. Shichikawa K, Takenaka Y, Maeda A (1981). A longitudinal population
       survey of RA in a rural district in Wakayama. Ryumachi, 21, 35-43.
    6. Rheumatoid Arthritis Therapeutics in Taiwan. Bio-medicine News, (10
       April 2009).
    7. Access Economics PRY Limited (2007). Painful realities: The economic
       impact of arthritis in Australia in 2007. (Arthritis Australia).
    8. Osiri M, Maetzel A, Tugwell P. The economic burden of rheumatoid
       arthritis in a developing nation: results from a one-year prospective
       cohort study in Thailand. J. of Rheumatology January, 34, 57-63.
    9. Rheumatoid Arthritis Therapeutics in Malaysia. Bio-medicine News, (31
       March 2009).
    10. Wayne B., Morrison A., Maclean R. & Ruderman E. (2006).Systematic
        review of studies of productivity loss due to rheumatoid arthritis.
        Occupational Medicine, 56, 18-27.
    11. Albers J.M.C., Kuper H.H., van Riel P.L.C.M., Prevoo M.L.L., Van't Hof
        M.A., van Gstel A.M. & Severens J.L. (1999). Socio-economic
        consequences of rheumatoid arthritis in the first years of the disease.
        Rheumatology, 38, 423-430.
    12. Weaver A. L. (2004). The Impact of new biologicals in the treatment of
        rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatology, 43, 17-23.
    13. Finckh A. & Rubbert-Roth A. (2009). Treatment options in patients with
        rheumatoid arthritis failing initial TNF inhibitor therapy: a critical
        review. Arthritis Research & Therapy, 11(Suppl 1):S1.

    For further information, please contact:

     Micaiah F. Tan
     Ogilvy Health, Singapore
     Office: +65-6213-7846
     Mobile: +65-8123-3928

SOURCE Asia-Pacific League of Associations for Rheumatology
Copyright©2009 PR Newswire.
All rights reserved

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