In 2019 alone, multiple sclerosis (MS) cost Americans an estimated $85.4 billion, a new study finds.
That amount included over $63 billion in direct medical costs and $22 billion in indirect non-medical costs.
"The findings of this study help underscore the burden of MS in the U.S. and our hope is our results will inform decision-making regarding MS-related health resources," said study author Bruce Bebo. He is executive vice president for research at the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
MS is an unpredictable disease of the central nervous system, in which a person's immune system attacks the brain and spinal cord. Symptoms can include numbness, tingling, mood changes, memory problems, pain, fatigue, blindness and paralysis, according to the society.
At nearly $38 billion, prescription medications accounted for the largest portion (54%) of direct medical costs. That was followed by clinic-administered drugs at $6.7 billion (12%), and outpatient care at $5.5 billion (9%), the researchers reported.
Compared to someone without MS, the average MS patient incurred over $65,000 in excess medical costs. That included $35,000 for medication, the study found.
The annual cost for a person taking MS medications ranged from $57,000 to nearly $93,000, according to the report published online April 13 in the journal Neurology.
But medications and health care are not the only factors in the overall economic burden of MS. People with the neurologic disease may have to limit their work or be unable to work at all, reducing their productivity and income.
And patients' family members may need to give up their jobs to act as caregivers, the study authors noted.
"Multiple sclerosis is an expensive disease to treat and the debilitating effects of MS can result in considerable disruption to daily living including work, physical independence, mobility and social interaction," Bebo said in a journal news release.
For the study, the researchers analyzed Medicare and insurance claims from just under 10,600 people with MS and close to 106,000 others. They also surveyed about 950 participants and their caregivers about indirect costs, such as job loss or lost productivity on the job, cost of paid and unpaid caregivers, and home modifications.
"Right now, in the U.S., there are about one million adults with MS and we estimated that by 2039, there will be nearly 1.2 million people living with MS," Bebo said. "With this, the economic burden will increase to $108.1 billion."
The National Multiple Sclerosis Society has more about MS.
SOURCE: Neurology, news release, April 13, 2022