Patients with musculoskeletal conditions incur healthcare costs nearly 50% higher compared to those for people with any other single disease, according to a study presented at this year´s congress of the European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR). The researchers behind the study believe that musculoskeletal conditions must become a priority area for policymakers given the serious impact on healthcare costs.
Chronic diseases in Europe account for 70% to 80% of healthcare spending. A large number of these diseases are musculoskeletal conditions, most common among them being rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis and lower back pain. All in all, there are over 150 conditions affecting the muscles, bones and joints. They are found in up to 20% of adults but the proportion rises considerably with age and musculoskeletal conditions are the primary cause of disability in the elderly population.
The report presented at the EULAR congress was based on a study conducted by researchers from Maastricht University in the Netherlands. The scientific team examined data from 8,904 patients and analysed how various diseases affected them in terms of treatment expenses. The results showed that costs increased sharply when more than one disease was present. However, musculoskeletal conditions drove expenses more than any other condition. If a patient suffered from two diseases, neither of which affected the musculoskeletal system, their overall healthcare costs were twice as high as those for a healthy individual. But if one of them was a musculoskeletal condition, the costs were three times higher.
Since musculoskeletal problems have such a big impact on healthcare costs, policy makers should urgently address the issue in order to provide long-term, cost-effective solutions for patients and lighten the burden on healthcare systems, commented research team member Dr. Anjtie Van Der Zee-Neuen.