Page last updated at 00:35 GMT, Tuesday, 25 November 2008

MS 'costing the economy 1.4bn'

Multiple sclerosis patient
MS causes damage to the nerves

The cost to the UK economy of looking after people with multiple sclerosis is 1.4bn a year, a study suggests.

King's College London researchers surveyed 2,000 MS patients finding they cost the equivalent of nearly 17,000 a year in care, support and medication.

Once loss of earnings were taken into account, costs rose to over 25,000, the Pharmacoeconomics journal reported.

The MS Society said people with the condition needed support from the NHS and social services to remain in work.

MS is a degenerative condition which affects about 85,000 people in the UK.

Long-term investment in research and in support for carers would pay dividends for people living with MS and for the whole economy
Daniel Berry, of the MS Society

It is caused by a defect in the body's immune system, which turns in on itself, causing damage to the nerves which can lead to symptoms including blurred vision, loss of balance and paralysis.

The researchers questioned members of the MS Society about the care they received and how their employment status had been affected.

Half of the sample had retired due to ill-health, while a fifth were in employment but had been forced to work part-time.

On average, the restrictions on work was costing just over 8,500 in lost earnings.

Informal care

On top of that the researchers calculated the cost for caring and supporting a person with MS.

This included the formal care and treatment people got from the NHS and social care, the informal support they got from friends and family and any personal payments they had made themselves, such as funding home adaptations.

The report concluded this was costing the equivalent of just under 17,000 - nearly three-quarters of which was down to informal care.

Lead researcher Dr Paul McCrone said: "The costs associated with MS are substantial. Most of the service costs are hidden as they represent care provided by family members."

Daniel Berry, head of policy and campaigns at the MS Society, said people with MS needed more support from the state which would in turn mean they could be kept working for longer.

"Long-term investment in research and in support for carers would pay dividends for people living with MS and for the whole economy."

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