Cost of arthritis increases with ageing population

Spending on arthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions increased by more than 5% annually between 2000-01 and 2004-05, according to a report released today by Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report Health expenditure for arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions 2004-05 found that arthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions, such as osteoporosis, account for more spending on doctors and specialists than any other disease group in Australia, at almost $1.2 billion.

'Because these conditions are more common in older people, an increasingly ageing population is likely to further add to the associated disease burden and the cost of providing health services in Australia,' said Ms Tracy Dixon of the AIHW's National Centre for Monitoring Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Conditions.

According to the report, arthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions were the fourth largest contributor to direct health expenditure in 2004-05, amounting to $4 billion or more than 7% of total allocated health expenditure.

Osteoarthritis accounted for nearly one-third of expenditure for these conditions, and 75% of the funds allocated to osteoarthritis were spent on hospital costs, mainly related to knee and hip replacements.

For rheumatoid arthritis, prescription pharmaceuticals accounted for over half ($92 million) of the expenditure, illustrating the use of medication to manage the disease.

Pharmaceuticals also accounted for almost three-quarters ($215 million) of the expenditure for the prevention and management of osteoporosis.

The report showed the amount spent on prescribed pharmaceuticals for preventing and managing osteoporosis nearly tripled (in current prices) from $75.5 million in 2000-01 to $215 million in 2004-05.

About 6 million Australian men, women and children have a musculoskeletal condition.

Friday 11 September 2009

Further information: Ms Tracy Dixon, AIHW, tel. 02 6244 1103, mob. 0418 271 395 or

For media copies of the report: Publications Officer, AIHW, tel. (02) 6244 1032.