Multiple Sclerosis Care Exceeds $85 Billion Annually – How Economic Cost Underscores Need for Reform

Shot of a doctor using a digital tablet to discuss a brain scan with a senior patient.
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In terms of sheer financial costs, not many medical conditions can top multiple sclerosis (MS). In 2019 alone, the central nervous system disease cost Americans an estimated $85.4 billion, according to a new report from the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

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That total included more than $63 billion in direct medical costs and $22 billion in indirect non-medical costs, UPI reported. Prescription medications, at nearly $38 billion, accounted for more than half (54%) of direct medical costs related to MS. Next came clinic-administered drugs at $6.7 billion (12% of costs) and then outpatient care at $5.5 billion (9%).

The average MS patient incurred more than $65,000 in excess medical costs compared to someone without the disease, the study found. This total includes $35,000 for medication. The annual cost for someone taking MS medications ranged from $57,000 to nearly $93,000, the UPI noted, citing research published Wednesday in the journal Neurology.

MS isn’t the most expensive disease in terms of sheer dollars. A February 2022 report on the HealthPayer Intelligence website listed several diseases that carry a higher annual cost than MS, not including general conditions related to smoking, alcohol use and obesity.

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The most expensive disease is diabetes, with an estimated care cost of more than $320 billion. It was followed by arthritis ($304 billion) and Alzheimer’s disease ($244 billion). Cancer is expected to carry an annual cost of $240 billion by 2030, according to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and National Cancer Institute.

But MS is expensive enough that some officials are calling for reforms and additional resources to help lower the cost .

“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,” study author Bruce Bebo, executive vice president for research at the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, told UPI.

Drugs and healthcare aren’t the only factors that contribute to the economic burden of MS. Another factor is related to employment — people who suffer from the disease might have to either limit the amount of work they do or leave the workforce altogether. Patients’ family members might also need to give up their own jobs to act as caregivers.

This puts a financial strain not only on the patients themselves, but those charged with providing care and support.

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“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.

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About the Author

Vance Cariaga is a London-based writer, editor and journalist who previously held staff positions at Investor’s Business Daily, The Charlotte Business Journal and The Charlotte Observer. His work also appeared in Charlotte Magazine, Street & Smith’s Sports Business Journal and Business North Carolina magazine. He holds a B.A. in English from Appalachian State University and studied journalism at the University of South Carolina. His reporting earned awards from the North Carolina Press Association, the Green Eyeshade Awards and AlterNet. In addition to journalism, he has worked in banking, accounting and restaurant management. A native of North Carolina who also writes fiction, Vance’s short story, “Saint Christopher,” placed second in the 2019 Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition. Two of his short stories appear in With One Eye on the Cows, an anthology published by Ad Hoc Fiction in 2019. His debut novel, Voodoo Hideaway, was published in 2021 by Atmosphere Press.
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