Rheumatoid arthritis causes increased complications and health care costs in inpatient and outpatient settings

PHILADELPHIA, October 29, 2000 - Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients seek outpatient care for symptoms unrelated to the musculoskeletal problems of their disease one-third of the time and face significantly longer hospital stays and more costly charges from complications and joint replacements, according to two studies from researchers at Zynx Health Inc., a subsidiary of Cedars-Sinai Health System, presented this week at the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) annual meeting.

In the first study, patients with RA sought care for symptoms unrelated to musculoskeletal complaints 36 percent of the time. While musculoskeletal system symptoms ranked first among reasons for visits for both RA and osteoarthritis (OA) patients (64.5 percent and 68.8 percent of visits, respectively), RA patients were significantly more likely to want help for general symptoms such as fatigue (14.1 percent RA and 9.2 percent OA, p<0.01), digestive system symptoms (5.1 percent RA and 3.1 percent OA) and skin, nail or hair problems (2.6 percent RA and 1.2 percent OA, pp<0.01). Data from the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey were analyzed to determine stated reasons for visits by 1,171 RA patients, 4,709 OA patients and 270,058 non-arthritis patients for the years 1989 to 1998.

"Rheumatoid arthritis impacts more than just the joints. It also affects physical function and quality of life, and therefore is associated with non-arthritis related healthcare utilization," said co-investigator Joshua J. Ofman, M.D., M.S.H.S., from Cedars-Sinai. "We need to quantify the hidden aspects of health care utilization by these patients in order to better understand the quality of life impact and to estimate the overall clinical and economic burden of a chronic disease like rheumatoid arthritis."

Current estimates of total direct costs for RA, based on a national community-based sample, are $4.76 billion, with physician visits accounting for approximately 30

Contact: Rebecca Hamm
Porter Novelli

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