-- Robert Preidt
FRIDAY, March 15 (HealthDay News) -- Workers with rheumatoid
arthritis have higher health care and other costs for U.S.
employers than workers without the condition, a new study
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that causes pain,
swelling, stiffness and loss of function in the joints, and can
also affect other body organs.
The study appears in the March issue of the
Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.
Researchers analyzed an insurance-claims database to compare the
costs to employers for more than 2,700 workers with rheumatoid
arthritis and more than 338,000 workers without the condition.
Their study included direct health care costs and indirect costs
such as missed work days.
The study found that the average yearly cost for a worker with
rheumatoid arthritis was $8,700, compared with $3,500 for a worker
without the condition. Direct health care costs accounted for 90
percent of the extra $5,200 in the total yearly costs for a worker
with arthritis, according to a journal news release.
The researchers also found that workers with rheumatoid
arthritis averaged about three and a half more days of
health-related work absences a year than those without arthritis.
This included more sick days and more short-term disability
Based on their findings, the researchers calculated that workers
with rheumatoid arthritis cost employers nationwide an additional
$5.8 billion a year, compared to workers without it. Of that total,
$5.2 billion is for direct health care costs. Workers with the
condition also account for 4 million more lost work days per year
than those without rheumatoid arthritis.
The study may underestimate the cost impact of rheumatoid
arthritis for employers, particularly in reduced productivity, the
"The data emphasize the need for effective management strategies that can reduce the burden of illness and economic losses incurred," concluded study co-author Richard Brook, of the JestaRx Group, which provides medical marketing services for clients in the pharmaceutical industry.
JestaRx has received funding from Abbott Laboratories. Two other
study authors are employed by and own stock in Abbott, which makes
drugs to treat rheumatoid arthritis, the study disclosed.
The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about
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