Economic Impact of Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis

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Abstract

Objective

Juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) is a potentially devastating chronic pediatric disease. Although high costs have been well described in adult arthritis, little is known about the economic impact of JIA. Our objective was to describe direct medical costs for children with JIA compared with controls.

Methods

Consecutive clinic attendees (n = 155) with JIA were enrolled from 2 tertiary referral pediatric centers. Outpatient clinic controls without JIA (n = 181) were recruited at the respective centers. Data on direct medical costs were obtained at 3-month intervals. Average annualized direct medical costs were calculated, expressed in 2005 Canadian dollars.

Results

The total difference in annualized average direct medical costs for children with JIA versus controls was $1,686 (95% confidence interval $875, $2,500). JIA subjects had substantially higher costs concerning medication use, visits to specialists and allied health care professionals, and diagnostic tests. Multiple linear regression models for the JIA sample revealed that higher active joint count was independently associated with greater total direct medical costs. Also, JIA type was a predictor of greater direct costs, with higher costs for patients with polyarthritis (rheumatoid factor positive or negative) or systemic JIA.

Conclusion

The economic impact of JIA is substantial, and higher active joint count is independently associated with greater costs. This may be of particular significance given the emergence of new, costly medications for use in JIA. Insights into the relationship between disease activity and cost in JIA should assist policy makers regarding resource allocation in the setting of competing demands. Ultimately, decisions regarding access to therapies should be considered in terms of overall cost-benefit ratios.

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