Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatment Costs

In most cases, rheumatoid arthritis requires consistent aggressive treatment for many years to control symptoms, manage pain, and stop disease progression. There are a number of different treatment options, which can all be combined to create a well-rounded treatment strategy.

Treatment for rheumatoid arthritis includes a variety of medications, therapy and possibly even surgery. All these treatment types have their own associated costs, which begin to add up for patients suffering from this chronic disease.

It is estimated that the direct health care costs, as well as the consequential costs of rheumatoid arthritis in the United States, are over $19 billion annually.

Types of Treatments

A rheumatoid arthritis patient at any given time is likely undergoing several different forms of treatment. These treatment forms may include:

  • Medications (NSAIDs, analgesics, corticosteroids, DMARDs and biologics)
  • Physical and occupational therapy
  • Assistive devices, supportive products, and adjustments made to the home
  • Surgical procedures

Many of these treatments require monthly or regular spending in order to maintain health. Depending on health insurance plans, patients may wind up paying large portions of these rheumatoid arthritis treatment costs out of pocket.

Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatment Costs

Rheumatoid arthritis medications can be extremely costly. Many patients can pay up to $30,000 annually for their medication costs alone. Over the course of a lifetime, this figure becomes astronomical, especially for patients diagnosed early on in their lives.

While health insurance may cover a portion of this, it becomes difficult to pay for these medications out of pocket. In some cases, patients who are covered by medical insurance can still end up paying 30% or more of the total costs of certain medications.

A recent research report from GBI Research estimated that the value of the United States rheumatoid arthritis medication market will increase from $6.4 billion in 2013 to $9.3 billion by 2020. The reason for this drastic increase is because there are many newer medications available today that also cost more than others.

NSAIDs and analgesics are prolific in our society and so their availability makes them much more affordable. However, specialized rheumatoid arthritis medications are much more expensive. Conventional DMARDs have dropped in price drastically since they first came onto the market.

Many types of conventional DMARDs are much more affordable today. However, biologics, which are the newer class of immunotherapy drugs, are very expensive and can be a serious financial burden on many people.

Costs of DMARDs

Conventional DMARDs have come down in price significantly. They are much more affordable today than they were several years ago. Most patients can expect to pay between $1,500 and $2,000 annually for conventional DMARD medications. These costs will vary by the type and brand of medications.

Costs of Biologics

Biologics are the newest forms of rheumatoid arthritis treatments. Massive investments in research have gone into to developing biologics and making them available to patients. For this reason, they are the most expensive forms of medications available to patients today. Adding to the expense is the fact that biologics are usually administered by a healthcare professional through an IV or by injection. This alone creates additional health care costs.

Depending on the type of biologic medication being taken, the monthly costs can range from $1,300 to $3,000 per patient. This means that in many cases, biologics alone may cost the patient well over $30,000 annually without health insurance or financial assistance of some kind.

Costs of Surgery

Some patients don’t respond well to treatments or their joints begin to deteriorate rapidly. In this case, doctors may recommend specific types of surgery such as joint replacements or arthroscopic surgeries to restore mobility and reduce pain.

The costs for rheumatoid arthritis surgeries, especially joint replacement surgeries, can be in the tens of thousands of dollars. The average cost of knee replacement surgery in the United States in $49,500 which includes hospital bills and other associated charges.

The out of pocket expenses for these types of surgeries can range significantly based on the level of insurance coverage. Additional costs are usually also incurred out of pocket due to certain requirements for recovery. This may include additional physical therapy, medications, or assistive devices.

Other Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatment Costs

Beyond the rheumatoid arthritis treatments costs of surgeries and medications like DMARDs and biologics, patients can also wind up paying for many additional expenses such as the costs of ibuprofen and other NSAIDs taken regularly. Though these are much more affordable than DMARDs or biologics, when taken regularly, the costs can start to add up.

In severe cases, patients may require corticosteroids, which are available only by prescription. These medications can range anywhere from $25 up to $300 or more depending on the type.

Other medical and treatment expenses may include physical and occupational therapy, which are professional services that can cost hundreds of dollars per hour. In addition, many patients require special products and assistive devices, which all incur additional costs. Orthotics, canes, walking assists, special cooking utensils, and more may all need to be purchased out of pocket by many rheumatoid arthritis patients over the course of their lives.

Indirect Rheumatoid Arthritis Costs

Rheumatoid arthritis treatment costs can be a major financial burden on patients and their families as well as on healthcare as a whole. Yet, there are also indirect costs of the disease including not just healthcare costs but economic costs as well.

Due to the nature of the illness, many people find they become too debilitated to work full-time. This creates additional costs due to low productivity, absenteeism, and lost wages. It is estimated that indirect costs per patient in the United States can range from $1,500 to $22,000 annually. Additionally, many patients end up leaving their jobs and requiring disability, which costs on average $10,000 per patient annually. These additional costs become an enormous financial and economic burden.

Choosing Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatments

Unfortunately, for many patients who aren’t fully or even partially covered by health insurance, the decision as to which treatments to pursue often becomes a tradeoff between the treatment’s efficacy of the rheumatoid arthritis treatment costs.

Ideally, patients can find a medication and treatment plan that provides symptom relief, manages the disease and doesn’t cause financial stress.