Economic impact of comorbid conditions in patients with rheumatoid arthritis

A recent study by Mr Martin Vu, Dr Natalie Carvalho, Professor Philip Clarke and Dr An Duy Tran from the Health Economics Unit has been published in The Journal of Rheumatology. This study was featured in Editor’s Pick as one of the most relevant articles to clinical rheumatologists.

In this study, the publicly available Medical Expenditure Panel Survey data (MEPS) was used to evaluate the direct and indirect costs of more than a dozen comorbidities in a nationally representative US population with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) over a 10-year period. The results showed that the most prevalent chronic comorbid conditions were hypertension, followed by lipid metabolism disorders, diabetes, and depression. Patients with rheumatoid arthritis with no comorbid conditions accounted for only 14.6% of the rheumatoid arthritis population. Comorbid conditions in patients with RA were associated with higher annual healthcare expen­diture, lower likelihood of employment, higher rates of absenteeism, and lower income.

Heart failure was one of the least prevalent comorbid conditions in the study cohort, but it was associated with a highest incremental health care expenditure (US$8,205 per year in 2015). On average, RA patients with HF earned US$15,833 per year less than RA patients without heart failure.