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The Cost of Gout

As the incidence of gout continues to rise, so do the costs associated with managing the disease – affecting both health care payers and gout sufferers.

While the economic burden of gouty arthritis has not been widely researched, there have been studies to estimate workplace productivity loss and individual health care burdens. A 2013 literature review estimated the economic burden of gout at more than $6 billion per year. According to a 2013 study from the Arthritis Research Centre of Canada, the University of British Columbia and Boston University, there is a $2,021 annual work productivity loss per gout patient suffering from more than three flares per year. For those patients that suffer six or more gout flares per year, direct gout-related health care costs top $12,020.

An additional study published in Seminars in Arthritis & Rheumatism in February 2015 reported that elderly and treatment-resistant gout patients could pay $16,925 to $18,362 per person in order to manage their gout.

According to a 2016 study, the rate of hospitalizations for gout doubled from 4.4 to 8.8 per 100,000 from 1993-2011. In the same period, inflation-adjusted annual hospitalization costs for gout rose by 68 percent from $34,457 to $58,003.

Many of these costs might be reduced by providing education on the natural history of gout and the need for targeted treatment. Most patients need lifelong urate-lowering therapy, along with lifestyle modifications.

Known Pitfalls

While more than nine out of 10 gout sufferers say gout has affected their daily lives, one in five isn’t doing anything at all to treat the disease – and only 10 percent of gout sufferers are getting needed, ongoing treatment. Oftentimes, gout patients will start urate-lowering therapy, but are not prescribed anti-inflammatory prophylaxis. They experience a gout flare and stop their medication. Many gout patients will also stop treatment after they stop experiencing symptoms. It is important to encourage patient compliance so that they can experience long-term benefits.