Fibromyalgia Has Substantial Social, Economic Burden on Patients, Health Care System

Fibromyalgia places a substantial burden on both patients and the health care system.

Fibromyalgia places a substantial socioeconomic burden on health care resources and patients, data indicate.

The cost-of-illness study accounted for health care resource use, direct medical and non-medical costs, and productivity loss among patients with fibromyalgia.

In order to evaluate economic burden from a societal perspective, participants were asked to report the number of hospitalizations, emergency department visits, and all types of physician or other health care professionals they had consulted with in the last 3 months. Data on prescribed and over-the-counter fibromyalgia medications, natural heath products, medical aids, paid at-home help, and other costs were collected as well.

In total, 57 patients with fibromyalgia (92.98% female; mean age 48 years) completed the telephone interview. Notably, nearly 55% of participants did not have a paid job in the 3 months preceding the interview. Only 1.75% and 10.53% of participants reported a hospitalization or emergency department visit in the previous 3 months, respectively, however over 70% reported at least 1 visit with a physician. Sixty-four percent also reported seeing other health care professionals, including massage therapists, acupuncturists, chiropractors, pharmacists, and physiotherapists. Five participants reported at least 1 fibromyalgia-related medical intervention or test.

For pain treatment, 66% purchased over-the-counter medications, 89% purchased prescribed medications, and 52% purchased natural products. As much as 15% of participants reported having paid domestic help.

Total mean costs per 3-month period were $950.51 (Canadian dollars) per patient, with prescribed medications accounting for most of the cost (mean $329.28). Among those participants who were working, an average of 5.59 days was lost over the previous 3 months to fibromyalgia. For non-working participants, an average of 25 days of household productivity was lost.

“There is currently no cure for fibroymalgia and management of this disorder is aimed at reducing symptoms and maintaining optimal functioning. Interventions such as medication alone produce, at best, modest effects on patients’ condition,” the authors wrote. “The promotion of multimodal treatment approaches among fibromyalgia patients is highly recommended but our study underlines the substantial out-of-pocket expenses for patients seeking different healthcare treatments.”

The authors are hopeful that the findings will influence health care professionals’ awareness of the disease burden, in turn improving resource allocation and access to self-management programs.


Lacasse A, Bourgault P, Choinière M. Fibromyalgia-related costs and loss of productivity: a substantial societal burden. BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2016;17(1):168.