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Muscoloskeletal disorders are the first cause of disability and the second cause of permanent disablement in Italy. Osteoarthritis is the most frequent rheumatic disease and affects about 4 million Italians. In spite of that, data concerning social costs are lacking. On account of this lack we measured sanitary costs of 314 patients suffering from osteoarthritis. A retrospective, prevalence- based multicentric study was performed using a bottom-up approach. The study period was 12 months and referred to 1999. Eight percent of patients didn’t take any drug for the treatment of osteoarthritis; NSAIDs were prescribed to 86.9% of patients, analgesics to 29.9%, chondroprotective drugs to 7.6%, and gastroprotective drugs to 36.9%. Total sanitary costs came to 455 € / patient / year: 122 € were spent on diagnostics, 293 € on therapy and 40 € on management of drug-related gastropathy. Since the costs of anti-inflammatory drugs came to 30 € we calculated iatrogenic cost factor of 2.3. Moreover, the study supplied interesting informations about prescriptive habits, which differ in Italy from international guidelines for the medical treatment of OA, about patient management, because of hospitalization, which by itself absorbs 1/3 of resources, and about physiotherapy, which costs twice as much as pharmacological therapy. At last, data analysis gave the cue for suggestions on changing patients’ management.
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