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Estimated Opioid-Related Costs $14 Billion for Symptomatic Knee OA

THURSDAY, Feb. 25, 2021 -- The total lifetime opioid-related costs generated by symptomatic knee osteoarthritis (SKOA) in the United States are $14.0 billion, about half of which can be attributed to lost productivity, diversion, and criminal justice costs, according to a study published online Feb. 24 in Arthritis Care & Research.

Jamie L. Huizinga, from Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, and colleagues characterized the societal economic burden of opioid use among patients with SKOA. The Osteoarthritis Policy Model was used to estimate the opioid-related lifetime and annual costs generated by the U.S. SKOA population. The annual costs of strong and weak opioid regimens were estimated, and annual lost productivity and criminal justice costs of opioid use disorder, obtained from published literature, were included.

The researchers found the total lifetime opioid-related cost generated by the U.S. SKOA population was estimated at $14.0 billion, assuming a prevalence of 5.1 percent for chronic strong opioid use. Of the total costs, 53 percent were direct medical costs, 15 percent were lost productivity costs, 30 percent were diversion of opioid prescription costs, and 2 percent were criminal justice costs.

"These data offer new evidence of the magnitude of the societal burden generated by opioid use and misuse and could be used to educate health care providers and health policy decision makers on the best alternatives to opiate use," a coauthor said in a statement.

The study was partially funded by a grant from Pfizer.

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