Saturday, November 19, 2011

Economic Costs of Multiple Sclerosis

(guest post by Elaine Hirsch)

According to a 2010 report entitled “Global Economic Impact of Multiple Sclerosis” compiled by the Multiple Sclerosis International Federation, Multiple sclerosis creates substantial economic costs for the economies of nations where there are large numbers of MS patients. Statistics from the report show that fifteen countries, including the United States and Germany, reported an average annual cost of $41,335 or more for each MS patient.

A study published in the same year, “Economic Impact of Multiple Sclerosis in 2010,” sponsored by Multiple Sclerosis Research Australia, showed the economic impact of MS on just one national economy. Australian researchers, using an average cost of $48,945 per Australian patient suffering from MS, calculated that Australia’s 21,200 MS patients cost the national economy a yearly total of approximately $1.038 billion, up 58 percent since 2005.

Measuring the medical costs of MS patients is not easy, because the severity of MS symptoms varies from one patient to the next; some patients having only transient attacks, such as occasional blurred vision and fatigue, while other patients may become partially or completely paralyzed, as described in “Multiple Sclerosis: Just the Facts,” a brochure published by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society of America.

Australian researchers compensated for the variation among MS patients’ conditions by breaking down care costs into many small categories. Prescription medication and other medical necessities, such as nursing services, caused the highest costs for patients, but the cost of informal care, provided by family, friends and other private caretakers, jumped from $99 million in 2005 to $145 million by 2010.

The report noted that tabulating dollars for items such as hospital stays did not show the true human cost of MS in Australia. Commonly misunderstood, economic costs typically extend beyond the direct inputs to patient care for MS patients. For example, researchers stated that the “cost of informal care contributed 14% of the cost per person with MS while [employment] productivity losses contribute[d] 48% and was the highest single element of cost.”

The financial cost of time spent by family and other helpers caring for MS patients and the loss of employment opportunities experienced by MS patients because many patients and caretakers are forced into early retirement are not as visible as money spent on wheelchairs, but these factors represent enormous emotional and financial losses to the patients, their families, their friends and the Australian economy, losses that are escalating as the number of MS patients steadily increases. 

(Elaine Hirsch is kind of a jack-of-all-interests, from education and history to medicine and videogames. This makes it difficult to choose just one life path, so she is currently working as a writer for various education-related sites and writing about all these things instead. She is currently a writer for a master's degree resource.)


  1. okay, first of all, I have to say this is probably the quickest I have ever commented on one of your posts, Patrick. Just got onto Blogger and decided to work with newest posts first and yours was the first one on my Dashboard, (patting myself on the back).

    The emotional toil and physical toil on caregivers and patients is the worst of all the costs of MS. What it does to families money can never compensate and there will never be enough money to do so :(

    on another note, if you don't post between now and Thanksgiving, I hope you and your family have a good one, Patrick and Patti and Megan!


  2. Very true - the cost for us in actual dollars spent is low because Pete is covered 100% by the VA for everything he could possibly every need.

    But I gave up a $60,000 a year career to work from home and wait tables a few nights a week for FAR, FAR, FAR less. I found that the stress of working full time and commuting 2 hours a day while he was home alone sinking into depression and getting into god knows what was too much.

    We are fortunate that he gets SSDI and a VA Pension at 100% disablity. We can live on that and my money allows us to go out to dinner, to take vacation, etc. We will not get out of debt nearly as quickly this way but we are still making progress.

    Sometimes you have to compromise. I do wish he understood more why I am not working full time. He gets frustrated when he can't have what he wants instantly sometimes and tells me to get a job. But if I wasn't here he'd be much more depressed and lost.

    I guess it's just my burden to bear.

  3. Great post and good information too!
    Tricia, Just a thought, could it be that he feels he's holding you back, that you maybe better off without him. You've given up so much for him, I'm sure it's only because you love him. I must say he's a lucky man! mkm


    Above is a presentation on Yoga and Teen is a program we are doing at our hospital and having great results.

    The cost of caregiving can't always be measured in dollars and cents.

  5. Olkhdan! Thank you that Yoga and Teen Autism pdf was fascinating.


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