An economic impact report released today details the cost of multiple sclerosis (MS) to individuals and the national economy
This neurological disorder, now affects over 21,000 Australians, most commonly young women, and costs an estimated $1.04 billion per year; an increase of $380 million since last evaluated in 2005.
The report, the Economic Impact of Multiple Sclerosis in 2010, was conducted by Covance together with Menzies Institute for Medical Research. This is only the second time that the cost of MS has been evaluated, the first being conducted in 2005 by Access Economics.
Professor Andrew Palmer, Head of Health Economics at the Menzies Institute for Medical Research said it highlighted important trends which could be addressed. The report looked at prevalence increase, medication and caring costs and importantly loss of employment.
‘While some aspects of the findings are as expected, they are nonetheless quite alarming’ he said. ‘For example, medication is a major part of the direct costs however, as the disease increases in severity, these costs are far outweighed by lost productivity.
‘This suggests an approach for the future should be to focus on prevention, the search for a cure and improved treatments. If these can slow or halt the progression of disability it offers to alleviate this burden from the perspective of families living with MS and for the economy as a whole. Public policy that supports people to live productive lives in the community is also of paramount importance,’ said Professor Palmer.
MS Australia said the data confirmed that the loss of productivity resulting from people with MS not working was costing the nation millions of dollars, actually nearly half a billion dollars, and results in the most invisible of MS symptoms – financial insecurity.
‘We know that after 10 years, 80% of people with MS will lose their jobs, as a result of both the symptoms of the disease and discrimination,’ says MS Australia’s Manager of Policy and Community Partnerships Mr Alan Blackwood.
’Leadership and innovation is needed from employer group bodies and government to implement early intervention employment programs to support people to remain in employment and also to help companies include flexible working arrangements for people with chronic illnesses like MS. The Productivity Commission Report that recommended the National Disability Insurance Scheme specifically identified the value of early intervention. We hope the research released today will inform the development of the NDIS and help people with MS stay well, working and living with their families well into the future,’ said Mr Blackwood.
Jeremy Wright, Executive Director of MS Research Australia, who commissioned the report said, ‘This report emphasises the need for investment in research and the need to do everything we can to prevent and cure MS. A clinical trial of the preventative benefits of Vitamin D, for example, is now being rolled out, but requires further funding.
‘The dollars spent on preventing multiple sclerosis (MS) will pay off in so many ways. Many Australians will be free of MS in the future and Australia’s health and social welfare budget has everything to gain,’ said Jeremy Wright, Executive Director of MS Research Australia.
MS Research Australia thanks Macquarie Group Foundation for the grant that supported the production of this report.