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.
The pain during a gout attack is often so excruciating that many go to an emergency room for relief.
On a pain scale of one to 10, most gout patients rank their pain as a nine or a 10. Many report that during an attack, the affected joint feels as if it is caught in a mechanical device. Even the thought of a bedsheet touching the joint is enough to make them cringe.
Gout attacks come on quickly and can last for several days. After a first attack, most people will experience another painful flare within a year. More than three in four gout sufferers will have another attack within two years. Subsequent attacks often are more severe and last longer.
Economic Impact of Gout
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.
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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.
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.
The Gout Education Society believes that continuing education for medical professionals and their staff is crucial when it comes to keeping up with the latest in gout treatment, diagnosis and management.
In October 2012, the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) published its long anticipated “Guidelines for the Management of Gout.” In September 2015, ACR expanded on the existing guidelines and released new classification criteria about gout.
With gout on the rise, it is essential that all patients, especially those touched by gout, are knowledgeable about this serious disease. You can always learn more from your doctor during regular visits. Take a stand on gout!