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Treatment Cost for Arthritis on the Rise: Study

increment in costs beyond what would be expected of people of the same ages in the absence of the conditions. Total expenditures increased between 1997 and 2003 by about $88 billion a year, to roughly $322 billion. The incremental expenditures increased by $16 billion a year, to about $81 billion.

However, the average increment in medical care expenditures for an individual with arthritis remained surprisingly stable – $1,762 in 1997 and $1,752 in 2003 – said Louise Murphy, PhD, at the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and a co-author of the study.

“In 2003, the costs attributable to arthritis were approximately 1 percent of the gross domestic product of the United States, which is equivalent to a low-grade, chronic recession,” Murphy said. “However, the growing economic toll is a result of the increase in numbers of people affected, rather than an increase in mean expenditures and earnings losses.”

That economic toll threatens to continue to escalate, she said, because the number of arthritis sufferers is projected to increase steadily to nearly 67 million by 2030. She called urgent attention to the need for cost-effective efforts to decrease medical expenses and increase the earning power of people with arthritis.

In 2003, employed adults with arthritis earned an average of $3,613 less than healthy working adults between the ages of 18 and 64. Nationwide, raw earnings losses due to arthritis totalled $108 billion, up from $99 billion in 1997.

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