Date: 24 Aug 2012

Burden of a Multiple Sclerosis Relapse

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Abstract

Background: Relapses are a common feature of relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS) and increasing severity has been shown to be associated with higher healthcare costs, and to result in transient increases in disability. Increasing disability likely impacts work and leisure productivity, and lowers quality of life.

Objective: The objective of this study was to characterize from the patient’s perspective the impact of a multiple sclerosis (MS) relapse in terms of the economic cost, work and leisure productivity, functional ability, and health-related quality of life (HR-QOL), for a sample of patients with RRMS in the US treated with immunomodulatory agents.

Methods: A cross-sectional, web-based, self-report survey was conducted among members of MSWatch.com, a patient support website now known as Copaxone.com. Qualified respondents in the US had been diagnosed with RRMS and were using an immunomodulatory agent. The survey captured costs of RRMS with questions about healthcare resource utilization, use of community services, and purchased alterations and assistive items related to MS. The Work and Leisure Impairment instrument and the EQ-5D were used to measure productivity losses and HR-QOL (health utility), respectively. The Goodin MS neurological impairment questionnaire was used to measure functional disability; questions were added about relapses in the past year.

Results: Of 711 qualified respondents, 67% reported having at least one relapse during the last year, with a mean of 2.2 ± 2.3 relapses/year. Respondents who experienced at least one relapse had significantly higher mean annual direct and indirect costs compared with those who did not experience a relapse ($US38 458 vs $US28 669; p = 0.0004) [year 2009 values]. Direct health-related costs accounted for the majority of the increased cost ($US5201; 53%) and were mainly due to increases in hospitalizations, medications, and ambulatory care. Indirect costs, including informal care and productivity loss, accounted for the additional 47% of increased cost ($US4588). Accounting for the mean number of relapses associated with these increased costs, the total economic cost of one relapse episode could be estimated at about $US4449, exclusive of intangible costs. The mean self-reported Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS) score, derived from the Goodin MS questionnaire, was significantly higher with relapse than with a clinically stable state (EDSS 4.3 vs 3.7; p<0.0001), while the mean health utility score was significantly lower with relapse compared with a clinically stable state (0.66 vs 0.75; p = 0.0001). The value of these intangible costs of relapse can be estimated at $US5400. The overall burden (direct, indirect, and intangible costs) of one relapse in patients treated with immunomodulatory agents is therefore estimated conservatively at $US9849.

Conclusions: This study shows that from a patient’s perspective an MS relapse is associated with a significant increase in the economic costs as well as a decline in HR-QOL and functional ability.

Key points for decision makers

• Multiple sclerosis (MS) relapses contribute to increased costs of disease due to additional hospitalizations, medications, and ambulatory care
• During MS relapses, patients develop transient increases in disability that correspond to decreases in health-related quality of life and the ability to perform work and usual activities