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Hip and knee osteoarthritis more than doubles the number of sick leave days and occupational healthcare contacts for working age individuals

Research has shown that osteoarthritis causes disability, especially among older adults. Our latest real-world evidence study shows that hip or knee osteoarthritis is also causing a significant burden among younger, working age individuals.

Osteoarthritis is a common form of arthritis, and it occurs most commonly in the joints of the knee and hip. Pain is a typical symptom of osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis pain can interfere with a patient’s daily activities, and in working age individuals, it can reduce productivity or even cause work loss. This retrospective study conducted by Medaffcon, Pfizer, and Terveystalo investigated the burden of hip and knee osteoarthritis in working age individuals.

This study published in the journal BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders showed that hip and knee osteoarthritis increases the number of co-diagnoses, healthcare contacts, sick leave days, and analgesic prescriptions in working age individuals.

In this study, hip and knee osteoarthritis patients had 2.8 times more overall sick leave days and 2.2 times more healthcare contacts compared to the control cohort. Osteoarthritis patients had an average of 22.8 sick days a year, compared with 8.1 days for controls. The average number of occupational healthcare contacts was 6.1 a year in osteoarthritis patients and 2.8 times a year in controls. A large proportion of sick leave and contacts were for reasons other than osteoarthritis. However, osteoarthritis was recorded to have caused 28 percent of the sick leaves and 18 percent of the healthcare contacts.

Although opioids are seen as the last resort for osteoarthritis treatment according to the updated national and international treatment guidelines, almost 11% of osteoarthritis patients in this cohort had an opioid prescription from an osteoarthritis-related visit. Further, etoricoxib was the most prescribed medication at visits related to osteoarthritis.

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) commonly used to treat joint pain are, however, not always the best option for treatment. In this study, up to 14% of osteoarthritis patients were found to have a contraindication for NSAIDs. These results highlight the need for novel therapies for the safe management of chronic pain associated with osteoarthritis. Moreover, this study clearly shows that effective and value-based osteoarthritis treatments are needed, especially considering the increasing prevalence of this chronic condition.

Study background

This study utilized electronic medical records of patients who visited Terveystalo during the period from January 2012 to April 2020 and had given their consent. More than 51,000 patients diagnosed with hip or knee osteoarthritis were identified from the Terveystalo patient register, of which 35,109 were occupational healthcare customers. A control group corresponding to the number of patients, age and gender was formed from individuals without osteoarthritis diagnosis. The study compared the morbidity, occupational healthcare contacts, sick leave days, and prescription data of osteoarthritis patients and the control population.

Read more:

The burden of hip and knee osteoarthritis in Finnish occupational healthcare, Summanen M, Ukkola-Vuoti L, Kurki S, Tuominen S, Madanat R. BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2021 May 29;22(1):501.

Find more RWE study summaries here.

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