Press Releases

With Arthritis Cost and Prevalence Climbing Nationwide, Advocates Urge Lawmakers to Invest in Medical Research

American College of Rheumatology and Arthritis Foundation Host Congressional Briefing Outlining Arthritis Care and Research Policy Challenges and Solutions

Washington, DC – In response to recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showing that arthritis costs have more than doubled over the past 15 years, the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) and the Arthritis Foundation held a Congressional briefing on Capitol Hill today urging lawmakers to increase research funding at the CDC, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) to combat one of the nation’s leading causes of disability. The event was co-sponsored by the National Recreation and Park Association, the Coalition of State Rheumatology Organizations, the YMCA, the U.S. Bone and Joint Initiative, the Spondylitis Association of America, the National Organization of Rheumatology Managers and the Rheumatology Nurses Society.

New data from the CDC reveal the staggering impact of arthritis on the U.S. economy. Between 2003 and 2013, the annual cost of arthritis more than doubled and now totals $304 billion in direct and indirect costs, according to a CDC-sponsored study published in the September 2017 edition of Arthritis Care & Research. These figures include both higher medical costs to patients as well as lost earnings from individuals who are unable to work due to their condition.

“These new figures show that now more than ever, we need concrete solutions to expand access to arthritis care while improving the quality of life for people living with arthritis and rheumatic diseases,” said Dr. Angus Worthing, MD, FACP, FACR, a practicing rheumatologist and chair of the ACR’s Government Affairs Committee. “Congress has a critical opportunity to address these important cost and access issues by increasing federal investment in medical research on arthritis and rheumatologic conditions. We look forward to working with lawmakers to ensure the 54 million Americans living with arthritis and other rheumatic diseases can continue to access the care they need to manage their disease, avoid long-term disability and maintain quality of life.”

More than 54 million Americans – or one in four U.S. adults – are currently living with doctor-diagnosed arthritis, according to the CDC.  If current trends continue, an estimated 78 million adults will have doctor-diagnosed arthritis by 2040, presenting additional healthcare cost and access issues for policymakers to address.

“Funding government programs, including programs within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and National Health Institute (NIH), is critical not only for the one in four Americans with arthritis but also for the health of our economy,” said Michael Ortman, briefing moderator and Arthritis Foundation immediate past chair. “The Arthritis Foundation and the American College of Rheumatology will continue to pursue additional funding for programs that are dedicated to advancing treatments and finding a cure, so that people with arthritis can more fully participate in their communities, while future generations avoid this expensive condition altogether!”

Panelists discussed the implications of this new data, the current and future health care challenges for people living with arthritis and potential policy solutions – including the need for additional funding for federal arthritis research programs.

“Living with arthritis is incredibly challenging, especially when you’re young,” said Erin Vago, juvenile arthritis patient and Arthritis Foundation ambassador. “I’ve endured hardships, from giving up hobbies to being diagnosed with other conditions, including Fibromyalgia. I want to help improve the lives of all people living with arthritis, which is why funding medical research is so important to me.”

Panelists also highlighted the need for additional funds to support federal arthritis research programs, including the CDC’s Arthritis Program, NIH arthritis initiatives, and the creation of a $20 million stand-alone arthritis research program at the DoD to study the impact of arthritis in the Armed Forces.

“By supporting additional investment in arthritis research, Congress can ensure that the dedicated teams of researchers at the CDC and NIH have the resources they need to continue their important work of developing new treatments and possibly even cures for arthritis and other rheumatic diseases,” Dr. Worthing said. “Arthritis also impacts current U.S. service members and veterans at alarmingly high rates, yet there is no dedicated research budget at the Department of Defense to study the disease and develop treatment and prevention strategies. Fortunately, lawmakers have an opportunity to support our efforts by allocating $20 million of existing funds to create a stand-alone, Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program at the Department of Defense to study arthritis and its impact on veterans and service members.”

“Programs like the CDC Arthritis Program - which is grounded in research - significantly improve the quality of life for people affected by arthritis,” said Lesha Spencer-Brown, National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) program manager. “Moreover, funding for this program allows park and recreation agencies across the country to provide evidence-based programs that are not only cost-effective, but easily accessible.”

Dr. Chad Helmick, MD,  a medical epidemiologist from the CDC’s  National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (NCCDPHP) was also featured on today’s panel. 

Jocelyn Givens
404-633-3777, ext. 810


The American College of Rheumatology (ACR) is the nation’s leading advocacy organization for the rheumatology care community, representing more than 6,400 U.S. rheumatologists and rheumatology health professionals. As an ethically driven, professional membership organization committed to improving healthcare for Americans living with rheumatic diseases, the ACR advocates for high-quality, high-value policies and reforms that will ensure safe, effective, affordable and accessible rheumatology care.