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The rising burden of rheumatoid arthritis surpasses rheumatology supply in Ontario


Objectives — Accurate data on the burden of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) are scarce, but critical in helping healthcare providers and decision makers to optimize clinical and public health strategies for disease management. The researchers quantified the burden of RA in Ontario from 1996 to 2010 by age, sex and health planning region.

Methods — The researchers used the Ontario Rheumatoid Arthritis administrative Database (ORAD), a validated population-based cohort of all Ontarians with RA, to estimate the crude prevalence and incidence of RA among men and women, and by age group from 1996 to 2010. Burden by area of patient residence and rheumatology supply also were determined.

Results — The number of RA patients increased over time, from 42,734 Ontarians (0.5%) in 1996 to 97,499 (0.9%) in 2010. On average 5,830 new RA patients were diagnosed each year. In 2010, the burden was higher among females (1.3%) than males (0.5%) and increased with age, with almost half of all RA patients aged 65 years and older. The burden was higher in northern communities (1.0%) than in southern urban areas (0.7%). During the study period, the number of rheumatologists practicing in Ontario remained unchanged (approximately 160).

Conclusion — Over a 15-year period, the number of RA patients more than doubled with no concomitant increase in the number of practicing rheumatologists. The researchers observed considerable regional variation in burden, with the highest rates observed in the north. The findings highlight the need for regional approaches to the planning and delivery of RA care in order to manage the growing burden.



Widdifield J, Paterson JM, Bernatsky S, Tu K, Thorne JC, Ahluwalia V, Ivers N, Butt D, Jaakkimainen RL, Tomlinson G, Bombardier C. Can J Public Health. 2013; 104(7):450-5. Epub 2013 Oct 31.

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