Some relevant statistical data in fibromyalgia


By Dr. Javier Rivera | Jul. 15, 2019 | Posts in English

The numbers do not describe what a disease is like, but they say a lot about its importance and the impact it has on the people who suffer from it or on the socio-health field. In recent years we have been obtaining various data on fibromyalgia and its consequences that allow us to draw a fairly accurate map. Let’s see some of them.

To begin with, the prevalence in our population is 2.4%, that is, in Spain there are more than a million patients with fibromyalgia. In other countries, the prevalence is similar to ours, from which it can be deduced that it behaves quite homogeneously and affects different populations equally. 90% are women, and the median age at diagnosis is about 47 years. However, it can appear at any age, including children and the elderly.

The impact of the disease and its symptoms on the patient’s life is important and produces a poor quality of life. Compared to other chronic rheumatological diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis or arthrosis –which frequently cause physical and functional limitations–, quality of life indexes are significantly worse.

Fibromyalgia consultations constitute 5% of primary care consultations and up to 20% of rheumatology consultations.

The use of health resources is high. In general, consultations of any kind are five times more frequent than in other patients, but it is that consultations to specialties are up to 15 times more. Diagnostic tests are also twice as high as in the rest of the patients.

To treat the disease, patients with fibromyalgia take an average of 6 drugs, while the rest of the patients do not reach 3. Physical therapies are four times more frequent and they also undergo a greater number of surgeries, especially in the musculoskeletal system such as, for example, twice as many knee prostheses.

In the labor field, 57% of patients with fibromyalgia are active and 68% have had a sick leave in the last year with an average duration of 44 days. 13% of patients are permanently unable to work (compared to 23% in other countries).

Among the reasons for leaving work, 42% did so voluntarily, 14% due to dismissal and 44% due to having achieved permanent disability.

There is no good data on how the disease affects people who do domestic work at home.

Adding all the economic expenses, the patient with fibromyalgia has a total health cost of 10,000 Euros per year. This is triple the rate of other patients, twice that of inflammatory rheumatic diseases, and is at the same level as other prevalent chronic diseases such as diabetes or Alzheimer’s. The most important part of the total cost of the disease, approximately 66%, is due to the loss of working days, while 33% is due to the consumption of health resources.

Treatment under current conditions achieves a clinically significant improvement in 40% of patients, with a 15% reduction in severe patients and an increase of another 15% in mild patients.

Finally, treatment by rheumatologists specialized in fibromyalgia represents a reduction in the total healthcare cost of up to 14%. This figure is calculated under normal clinical practice conditions, that is, without the use of any special therapeutic strategy, such as coordinated multidisciplinary treatment in specialized units.

Today we know that multidisciplinary treatment is the best therapeutic option available, so it can be assumed that a measure of this type could further reduce the economic cost of the disease.

All the statistical data mentioned here are published in different research studies that are within the reach of health managers interested in improving the management of available health resources and, incidentally, the situation of patients with fibromyalgia. We are talking about a disease that affects 2.4% of our population!

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