Cost of living with MS higher in Ireland than rest of Europe

By Shauna Bowers

Credit: talk of the town

The societal costs of having MS is €10,000 higher in Ireland than the rest of Europe, according to a study published in the Journal of Medical Economics.

The average individual cost of people living with MS in Europe was last reported at €36,400 per year while the average individual cost for people in Ireland is €47,683 per year. However, these costs vary depending on the severity of the diagnosis.

The cost in Ireland is higher due to “hidden costs” which result from lower levels of workforce participation, a higher likelihood of permanent workforce departure and higher levels of the need for informal care.

Some 30 percent of costs associated with MS are direct costs while the other 70 percent are non-direct costs such as the cost of living and having to vacate work prematurely.

In Ireland, the individual cost varies from €100,554 for people with severe MS and €34,942 for people with mild MS.

One of the main factors driving the disparity in total costs associated with mild, moderate, and severe MS was the relationship between direct healthcare resource use and the severity of the disability.

Peter Carney, a PhD candidate in UCD and one of the researchers who wrote the report, said that they undertook this study to highlight how costly living with MS in Ireland can be. The study was done in conjunction with MS Ireland and Novartis.

“We conducted the study to learn more about the experience of living with MS in Ireland,”  Carney said.

“[We examined] the nature and extent of resources associated with the disease in different stages of its progression, and to highlight many of the hidden costs associated with MS — such as a lower rates of employment for people living with MS in Ireland compared to other European countries, and higher rates of care undertaken by family and friends.”

A spokesperson for the HSE declined to comment on why these costs were higher in Ireland than the rest of the continent.

For the 9,000 people in Ireland with MS, finding and remaining in employment is a major difficulty with less than 42 percent of men and 44 percent of women being in paid employment.

These figures are 24 percent lower than the national averages for women which is 56.9 percent and 38 percent lower than the national averages for men which is 67.6 percent.

One of the associated direct costs for people with MS is treatment for depression and anxiety.

Some 229 of the 546 people in the study have been treated for depression and/or anxiety since the onset of MS. This figure represents 38.55 percent of the total sample in the study.

At the launch of the report, Ava Battles, CEO of MS Ireland said: “The research is extremely important for those who live with MS, their families and for healthcare professionals. We now need to use these findings to influence a reduction in relapses and in progression of the disabling disease.

“Both personal case studies and the research bring to life that people with MS and their families need extra support to ensure as high a quality of life as that of the general population. This report highlights the cost outside the health system that can often be forgotten.”