Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is a chronic debilitating disease, causing severe pain and progressive joint destruction and leading to partial loss of mobility. The disease has a severe impact on patients' quality of life, due to the pain and physical impairment it causes, which can also result in psychological and social difficulties. Moreover, the chronic nature of the disease deems necessary the long-term use of medication, causing significant costs to the patient and the healthcare system. The decline in functional ability can cause problems at work, with reduced productivity or even unemployment. In addition, RA can limit the patients' ability for self-care, hence imposing a further burden on the patients' families and the society.
Many international studies have confirmed the reduced quality of life for people suffering from RA [1-3], as well as the large economic impact of the disease on the patients, the health system and society [4-6]. However, no assessment of the above impact of RA on the Greek population has been published so far.
A wide research of the literature confirms the relationship between costs and quality of life on the one hand and functional ability (as measured by the Health Assessment Questionnaire) on the other hand. [7-8] The impact of functional ability on quality of life is straightforward, however studies also demonstrate that as disease symptoms progress, without proper treatment, the overall costs undertaken by the patient or the healthcare system can rise significantly. On the other hand, if effective treatment can lessen or postpone the most serious consequences of the disease (such as extensive joint damage that could lead to surgical replacement), the savings on healthcare can offset some of the costs of the more effective drug therapies.
In the light of the above findings, it seems important that in order to properly assess therapeutic strategies for RA patients it is necessary to have an accurate view of the total burden of RA on the population. It is also important to be able to establish a robust relationship between functional ability and impact of RA on costs and quality of life.