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Multiple Sclerosis Disease Burden May Be Underestimated

By Jonathan Springston, Editor, Relias Media

The total cost of caring for patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) in the United States in 2019 was $85.4 billion, according to the results of a recent study commissioned by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

Researchers examined Medicare data, private insurance information, and mortality rates, and conducted interviews with more than 900 MS patients to learn more about cost burdens, both direct and indirect, and how those statistics compared to other patients without MS. The authors estimated that it cost an average of $65,612 more to treat a patient with MS annually vs. a patient without MS.

Investigators determined retail prescription medication, clinic-administered drugs, and outpatient care were the leading drivers of these high costs. Overall, researchers reported that to treat all MS patients in the United States in 2019, the direct medical costs were $63.3 billion and the indirect and non-medical costs were $22.1 billion (total = $85.4 billion).

Bruce Bebo, PhD, study author, noted that by 2039, the number of people in the United States living with MS could rise from about 1 million to about 1.2 million, which in turn could balloon the annual economic costs well north of $100 billion.

“Our results suggested a possible role for additional policy initiatives to better support individuals and families affected, in terms of providing treatment and long-term care, work-site support, employment, and occupational training. These measures could reduce the economic burden of MS and help improve the lives of those living with MS and their family caregivers,” Bebo said.

The National Multiple Sclerosis Society is lobbying government officials to lower prescription drug prices and help those with MS access high-quality health insurance.

“This study confirms the real impact these costs have on people with MS, their families, and care partners — as well as the U.S. economy. Urgent and immediate action is needed to ensure the cost of care is affordable and treatment for MS is accessible,” Cyndi Zagieboylo, National Multiple Sclerosis Society president and CEO, said.

For more on this and related subjects, be sure to read the latest issues of Neurology Alert.