Modeling the lifetime costs of rheumatoid arthritis

Sherine E. Gabriel, Cynthia S. Crowson, Harvinder S. Luthra, Judith L. Wagner, W. Michael O'Fallon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Objective. To develop an analytical approach for estimating the lifetime costs of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) using existing population based cross sectional data, and to use this estimate to describe the potential cost- effectiveness of bone marrow transplantation for RA. Methods. Estimates of arthritis related costs (direct, indirect, and nonmedical) and mortality were obtained from previously assembled population based cohorts. A mathematical model was designed defining 25 hypothetical ratios (RA/NA) representing the proportionate excess cost of RA each year for the 25 years following a diagnosis of RA. Using age and sex-specific cost estimates, we then simulated a vector of 25 ratios 1000 times. Each age and sex-specific randomly generated variable was converted to an estimated dollar amount (in 1995 dollars US) of excess cost attributable to RA. All dollar amounts were discounted by 3% per year. Finally, each vector of 25 discounted dollar amounts was summed to yield an estimate of the total excess medical costs in 1995 dollars for the first 25 years of a person's lifetime following a diagnosis of RA. Because not every one of these hypothetical individuals would be expected to live all 25 years, we used the standardized mortality ratio for an individual with RA (from our inception cohort) and multiplied it by the age-specific 1990 mortality rates for Minnesota whites to estimate how many of the 1000 randomly generated hypothetical individuals could be expected to die during each of the 25 years. For these, the summation of estimated cost was truncated at the death year. This process yielded, for each age and sex, a sample of 1000 sums of 25 (or fewer) excess costs all in terms of 1995 dollars that correspond to the excess cost during the first 25 years after an RA diagnosis, adjusted for differential survival among patients with RA compared to nonarthritic controls. The distribution of these sums thus represented a distribution of the 1995 dollars that could be saved if RA could be 'cured' soon after incidence. Results. Our simulation analyses indicated that the median lifetime incremental costs of RA range roughly from $61,000 to $122,000. Incremental costs were higher for younger individuals compared to older individuals and were consistent over all percentiles and age groups. No systematic relationship between the incremental costs of females with RA compared to males was identified. Conclusion. These data suggest that interventions such as autologous bone marrow transplantation, which has recently been estimated to cost roughly $60,000, may be cost saving if they eliminate the downstream incremental costs of RA.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1269-1274
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Rheumatology
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1999


  • Bone marrow transplant
  • Lifetime cost
  • Rheumatoid arthritis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rheumatology
  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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