New Evidence from EU-funded Research: Rheumatic and Musculoskeletal Diseases are the Most Costly Health Conditions in Europe and the Number one Cause of Disability

Oct 17, 2013, 07:00 ET from EULAR

BRUSSELS, October 17, 2013 /PRNewswire/ --

- EULAR calls on implementing evidence-based policies targeting rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases (RMDs)

New evidence on the enormous impact of rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases (RMDs) was presented in Brussels today. The evidence comes from the project, one of the largest EU-funded public health projects. Data collected and analysed by in the last three years prove that RMDs are the most costly of all diseases categories and account for almost a third of disability across Europe. They are also one of the most prevalent conditions (22% of adults in Europe have experienced long-term muscle, bone and joint problems), while they account for about 38% of all occupational diseases. The presentation of this evidence took place during the conference "Chronic diseases and health care delivery 2020", which was held today at the European Parliament under the auspices of the Lithuanian EU Presidency.

The purpose of the event was to present the results of, as well as to discuss recommendations to the EU and to Member States on how to implement the methods and tools developed by this project. According to the authors, these methods and tools will allow countries to assess, monitor and benchmark the burden of RMDs as well as the quality of care received by patients throughout Europe.

Data presented during the conference focused on different aspects of the burden of RMDs, such as: disabling consequences of RMDs (RMDs account for 4 of the 10 main causes of disability), impact on employment and productivity (RMDs are the most common medical causes long-term absence with major consequences for society in terms of costs), threats to healthy and active ageing (RMDs account for the larger percentage of years lived with disability), and costs.

Participants called for recognition of the socioeconomic importance of RMDs and the need for prioritising RMDs on health, social affairs and research policy agendas. EULAR President Prof. Maurizio Cutolo stated: "Until recently, decision makers were mostly concerned with diseases with a high mortality rate. This is gradually changing. More and more policy makers understand that prioritisation should be done taking into account a more comprehensive approach to the burden of diseases. This is driving them to pay increased attention to RMDs." Paul Rübig, Member of the European Parliament Interest Group on RMDs and host of the conference, pointed out that the evidence analysed by shows that RMDs represent a political challenge: "When you have dozens of millions of impaired or disabled people as we have in Europe, you not only have a social and economic issue; you also have a political problem that deserves to be dealt with in priority."

The scientific authors of the report underlined the importance of implementing and harmonising indicators for measuring the burden of RMDs and the quality of care across Europe. Prof Anthony Woolf ( Scientific Director), pointed out: "Such indicators are crucial for developing more effective, informed, and evidence-based policies against chronic diseases, and this is particularly important in the case of RMDs. The EU and international organisations are called to play a key role in fostering the implementation of such indicators."

More information: 

About rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases:

Chronic rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases affect almost one-quarter of all Europeans (more than 120 million).  These people have impaired quality of life, various degrees of disability and often premature death. Rheumatic diseases elicit the highest costs to health care and social systems. In Europe alone, due to health care costs, work-disability, sick leave and premature retirement, rheumatic diseases impose an economic burden of more than € 240 billion per year on state budgets.  The impact of these diseases is expected to grow immensely due to demographic and lifestyle changes.


The is a three year initiative undertaken with the support of the EC Community Action in the Field of Health 2008-2013 and the European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR). It aimed to raise and harmonise quality of care and enable equity of care of RMDs across the EU Member States. To this end, it has developed a health surveillance and information system that will allow countries to assess, monitor and benchmark the burden of RMDs as well as the quality of care received by people with these conditions. The project has also established what standards of care patients can expect, the quality of health care provided, what barriers affect the local implementation and has developed recommendations to improve healthcare across Europe.

About EULAR:

The European League against Rheumatism (EULAR) is the European umbrella organisation in the area of rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases. EULAR represents scientific societies, health professionals associations and organisations of people with arthritis/rheumatism throughout Europe. The aims of EULAR are to reduce the burden of rheumatic diseases on the individual and society and to improve the treatment, prevention and rehabilitation of musculoskeletal diseases. More information at

Contact: EULAR EU Office, Avenue des Arts 39, 1040 Brussels, Tel. +32-2-513-77-02, Fax +32-2-502-77-03,