A new study by Arthritis Research Canada has revealed that lupus – an autoimmune disease – places significant financial strain on health care systems even before diagnosis.
The health care costs for individuals with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) – the most common form of systemic autoimmune rheumatic disease – in the years leading up to a diagnosis are significantly higher compared to those of the general population.
“The spike in pre-diagnosis costs is partly due to tests involved in seeking care for an undiagnosed disease,” said Dr. Antonio Aviña-Zubieta, a senior research scientist at Arthritis Research Canada and BC Lupus Society research scholar. “The timeline from initial symptoms to full-blown lupus often spans two years and, sometimes, even longer.”
About 500 adults in British Columbia will be diagnosed with lupus in 2018. But findings suggest that, over the two years before diagnosis, these patients – mainly young women – amass more than $2.7 million in extra health care costs. Across Canada, these extra health care costs from lupus would exceed $21 million.
“These numbers reveal that early detection is key to reducing the burden that lupus places on health care systems around the world,” Aviña-Zubieta said. “Earlier diagnosis and intervention has also been reduce complications or damage.”
Yet, few studies have been conducted on the impact of lupus on the health care system before diagnosis. Arthritis Research Canada’s study provides the first-known estimates of outpatient, hospitalization and medication costs before an SLE diagnosis.
The study used data from the BC Ministry of Health to compare the health care costs of British Columbia adults newly diagnosed with lupus and a random sample of BC residents without lupus.
“This research has given us a better understanding of how serious health events before a lupus diagnosis impact the health care system,” Aviña-Zubieta said. “SLE is difficult to diagnose but identifying it earlier could reduce costs and improve patient care and the lives of people with SLE.”
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About ARTHRITIS RESEARCH CANADA:
Arthritis Research Canada is the largest clinical arthritis research centre in North America. Our mission is to transform the lives of people living with arthritis through research and engagement. Led by world-renowned rheumatologist, Dr. John Esdaile, Arthritis Research Canada’s scientific team of over 100 are creating a future where people living with arthritis are empowered to triumph over pain and disability. Within British Columbia, Alberta and Quebec, Arthritis Research Canada is leading research aimed at arthritis prevention, early diagnosis and treatment, and quality of life issues.
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