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.