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Osteoarthritis Costs U.S. Over $185 Billion a Year

Improved screening, awareness may help delay progression and reduce expenses, researchers say

MONDAY, Nov. 30 (HealthDay News) -- Medical care for osteoarthritis patients in the United States costs $185.5 billion a year, according to a new study.

Of that amount, insurers pay $149.4 billion while patients pay $36.1 billion in out-of-pocket costs. Annual insurer costs are $4,833 per female patient and $4,036 per male patient. Women also have higher out-of-pocket expenses than men -- $1,379 versus $694. The total cost for female patients is $118 billion, compared with $67.5 billion for male patients. All figures are in 2007 dollars.

"Understanding the economic costs of OA [osteoarthritis] is important for payers, providers, patients and other stakeholders. Our study clearly reflects the significant impact of OA on U.S. health-care spending," study author John Rizzo, of Stony Brook University in New York, said in a news release.

For the study, which is published in the December issue of the journal Arthritis & Rheumatism, Rizzo and his colleagues analyzed 1996-2005 data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey. The data sample included 84,647 women and 70,590 men aged 18 and older who had health insurance. The health-care costs included physician, hospital and outpatient services, as well as drugs, diagnostic tests and related medical services.

People with osteoarthritis suffer gradual loss of cartilage, primarily in the knees, hips, hands, feet and spine. About 27 million Americans have osteoarthritis, which affects more women than men, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. By 2030, it is projected that 25 percent of the U.S. population (nearly 67 million people) will have physician-diagnosed arthritis.

The study authors said increased awareness and better screening to identify patients with osteoarthritis may help delay disease progression and resulting disability, thus reducing medical costs.

"Our results suggest that patients with OA may benefit from greater efforts to promote exercise, proper medication use and appropriate surgical treatments for the disease," Rizzo concluded.

More information

The Arthritis Foundation has more about osteoarthritis.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Arthritis & Rheumatism, news release, Nov. 30, 2009

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