Study Identifies What Drives Fibromyalgia Healthcare Costs

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Healthcare costs for fibromyalgia patients include doctor visits, medications, and other factors including co-occurring illnesses.

To reduce these costs, and enhance patient outcomes, a study was done by Pfizer, and Truven Health Analytics to help physicians identify and better assist patients with high medical resource needs. The study results were published in the journal ClinicoEconomics and Outcomes Research.

The investigation revealed that almost all fibromyalgia patients had both medication and physician visit costs (91.6, and 87.5 percent). Other outpatient visits were an expense for half of the patients, as were lab tests for about 25 percent of them. Fewer healthcare costs were associated with radiology treatments, hospital stays, or physical therapy.

Opioids were the medications used most, by 44.3 percent of the patients—and it was discovered that 82.4 percent of those on opioids had prescriptions outside standard fibromyalgia recommendations. Both non-steroid, anti-inflammatory drugs and muscle relaxants were taken by roughly one third of the patients. A substantial amount of the medication used by fibromyalgia patients was for depression and anxiety relief.

Frequent physician visits during fibromyalgia’s early stages were correlated to more frequent visits later on, and not surprisingly, patients with other diseases (e.g., mood disorders, heart problems) sought care more often. Using opioids outside fibromyalgia guidelines also resulted in more healthcare visits, when compared to those using opioids per the guidelines, and to those not taking them.

The information for this study was gathered from an electronic database containing the health records of 64,038 fibromyalgia patients that met the research criteria. Most of them, above 80 percent, were female, and of European heritage.

“Physician office visits and pharmacotherapy orders were key drivers of all-cause healthcare utilization, with demographic factors, opioid use, and specific co-morbidities associated with resource intensity,” noted the researchers. “Health systems and providers may find their EHRs [electronic health records] to be a useful tool for identifying and managing resource-intensive [fibromyalgia] patients.”

Source: Fibromyalgia News Today
Photo credit: Steven Depolo


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Fibromyalgia is a prevalent condition that affects many people in the United States. Approximately 3.7 million Americans have Fibromyalgia. That is 1 in every 73 people.

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