Resource utilization and the cost of rheumatoid arthritis in Brazil.
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OBJECTIVE: To describe and analyze resource utilization in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) treated at a tertiary public health facility over a one-year period. Costs for the patient and for society associated with the treatment of RA were also investigated. METHODS: One hundred consecutively selected RA patients were included. Resource utilization was evaluated retrospectively for one year. Systematic interviews were used in all patients and demographic, socioeconomic and clinical variables were recorded. RESULTS: One hundred patients were included. Most of the patients were women (92%) and had mean age and disease duration of 51 and 11 years, respectively. The majority of the patients were Steinbroker functional class I (48%). Mean HAQ score for the sample was 0.95 and mean Short-Form-36 scores were between 49.64 (bodily pain) and 70.00 (social functioning). The average monthly household income for the group was US$ 359. The patients had on average 4 outpatient visits and 21 laboratory exams per year. Drugs accounted for 59% of the total cost associated with RA. The average total cost for society was US$ 424.14 per patient per year, of which 95% were direct and 5% indirect costs. CONCLUSION: The management of RA patients is an important financial burden in Brazil. The effort to couple resource utilization with the best available evidence, associated with the limited funds available in the healthcare system (particularly in a developing country), emphasizes the importance of studies that critically evaluate resource utilization and cost in these chronic patients. The systematic use of such studies may prove helpful to optimize the health system.
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