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José Escaich: Integral management of osteoarthritis could lead to savings of €500 million a year

23 May 2012

Bioiberica’s general manager says that integrated management of osteoarthritis knowledge and technical advances it is necessary, as it can create new opportunities to reduce overall cost of that disease, thus preventing new healthcare cutbacks that could affect the patient’s quality of lifeAccording to the ArRoCad study, average annual cost of knee and hip osteoarthritis care in Spain would be some €4,700 million, but drugs represent only 5% of that cost.

“There are still many things we can do to optimize healthcare costs, but they do not necessarily include the exclusion of medicines from our public funding system, lower prices of reference, or reduction of reimbursement payments for pharmacological treatments”. This phrase was said by Mr. José Escaich, general manager of Bioiberica, a pharma chemical Spanish company specializing in osteoarthritis and a world leader in the production of chondroitin sulfate and heparin. Mr. Escaich considers that “the key to success of a good management model in healthcare lies in differentiating between what it is important and what it is critical”, and that rationalization and optimization are related to transversality and to have an overall picture of healthcare expenditure.

In this regard, speaking specifically about osteoarthritis, Escaich says that “we must be creative and find solutions for the obvious need for adjustments. Fortunately, in osteoarthritis management there are many things we can do: our National Healthcare System could easily save more than €500 million by implementing integral management of that disease. Its key elements would be early diagnosis, personalized treatment, and improved healthcare management”.

The ArtRoCad gives us the overall picture of the cost of osteoarthritis care in Spain. That study concluded that the average annual cost of knee and hip OA amounts to 1,502 € per patient, which supposes an overall cost for our National Healthcare System of €4.738 million per year. ArtRoCad confirms that only 5% of that amount is expended in drugs, whereas 46% correspond to healthcare costs, 22% to sick leave costs, 13% to hospital admissions, and 7% to diagnostic tests.

Bioiberica’s general manager believes that “it is about time for private companies and public administrations to work together, for the sake of social responsibility-we must leave aside short-term policies, and look to wider horizons in order to undertake an integral approach to budgetary issues, disease management, and to patient health”.

Towards that objective, Mr. Escaich placed at the disposal of the administration Bioiberica’s entire repository of knowledge in the field of osteoarthritis. Bioiberica’s success is based on two foundations: research investment, and development of new technologies for osteoarthritis patients. Their research investments have yielded fruits such as DNA chips or biomarkers that allow for an early diagnosis of osteoarthritis in order to know the disease’s progression and to implement personalized therapeutic measures. Early detection will save visits to familial physicians and allow for an early treatment of the disease, based on pharmacological and non-pharmacological therapies focused on increasing the useful life of joints, thus improving the patient’ quality of life. A well-protected joint means a lower incidence of severe cases of osteoarthritis. In other words, it means savings in prosthetic surgery, sick leave costs, or other consequences stemming from co-morbidity or severe functional inability.

To conclude, José Escaich added that “improving the disease’s management must be focused towards improving the patient’ quality of life at a lower cost to the state.”