Autoimmune Diseases Number Two Cause of Chronic Illness

Major burden on all U.S. health care costs, patient expenses, and loss of earnings

FRIDAY, April 1 (HealthDay News) -- Autoimmune diseases are the second leading cause of chronic illness in the United States and constitute a major direct and indirect economic burden to the U.S. health care system, according to a report released by the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association (AARDA) on March 22 at a congressional briefing.

The AARDA report presents an evaluation of current economic data on the impact of autoimmune disease on patients, families, and the health care system. The report offers solutions to relieve the future economic burden of autoimmune diseases.

The report estimates that 50 million Americans have more than 100 autoimmune diseases, and 75 percent of those affected are women. Estimates of the costs incurred include direct and indirect health care and out-of-pocket patient expenses, as well as loss of earnings. In addition, unnecessary costs are incurred by delays in getting a diagnosis and starting treatment. Suggestions to alleviate the burden include streamlining diagnosis, coordinating patient care in community-based autoimmune triage centers, creating autoimmune specialists, raising autoimmune disease awareness, and increasing funding for research into autoimmune disease diagnosis, treatment, and care.

"The cost associated with these diseases, while difficult to pin down accurately for all 100+ diseases, has clearly been illustrated to be a major component in the health care spending picture," the report states. "It is imperative that autoimmune diseases become a public health priority that is recognized throughout National Institutes of Health institutes, as well as amongst the congressional representatives who must represent the pressing needs of this growing constituency of Americans who live with autoimmune diseases."

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