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Clin Rheumatol. 2011 Mar;30 Suppl 1:S3-8. doi: 10.1007/s10067-010-1634-9. Epub 2011 Feb 26.

The burden of illness of rheumatoid arthritis.

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Division of Rheumatology, Department of Internal Medicine, Maastricht University Medical Center and Caphri Research Institute, P Debyelaan 25, 6229 HX, Maastricht, Netherlands.


It is necessary to understand the full burden of illness of a disease before the value of interventions can be assessed. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) has an impact on a variety of stakeholders, including patients, healthcare systems, and society as a whole. This overview discusses the societal and patient perspectives, distinguishing several domains of impact. Epidemiology is important from a societal perspective, as it affects the total impact on health and costs related to RA and influences healthcare organization priorities. Co-morbidities, such as cardiovascular disease, are important factors contributing to the impact of RA. The impact on health is, naturally, relevant to both patients and society as a whole, and is summarized by health-related quality-of-life measures from the point of view of the patient and by utilities from the societal perspective. Similarly, work participation is important for both patients and society. Withdrawal from the labor force and short- and long-term sick leave are extensively studied in RA and lead to substantial productivity costs at the societal level and to income loss for patients. In addition, the recent concept of presenteeism, which reflects the problems that patients experience while at work, is considered. Finally, the costs of illness of RA are summarized. Societal costs are mainly driven by the costs of drug treatment and inpatient care, including surgery. Patient and family costs are mainly driven by the need for formal and informal care. Overall, RA has a significant impact on the health of and costs to patients and society, suggesting that effective interventions to reduce the impact are of value.

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