Multiple Sclerosis rising, costing people with MS and Australia $1.75 billion

Multiple Sclerosis rising, costing people with MS and Australia $1.75 billion

New findings from a landmark research report shows that while the number of Australians living with multiple sclerosis (MS) continues to rise – now at 25,600 - the course of the disease is shifting with more people able to stay in work and needing less care and support as a result of changes in treatment strategies.

On the other hand, costs for people living with more advanced MS are incredibly high, more than triple per person compared to those with milder disease (from $30,561 for people with no disability to $114,813 for people with severe disability). The quality of life impact for people living with severe disability is comparable to, or even lower than that reported for terminal metastatic cancer, chronic kidney disease and severe heart disease.

The Health Economic Impact of Multiple Sclerosis in Australia 2017 report, commissioned by MS Research Australia and prepared by the Menzies Institute for Medical Research, University of Tasmania, is the first in nearly eight years to provide a comprehensive landscape analysis of MS in Australia. It shows how many Australians are now living with MS, the costs of the disease from an individual and societal perspective, and the quality of life indices for individuals living with MS.

The total economic cost of MS to the community now stands at $1.75 billion - an increase of $0.51 billion since 2010 (when it was $1.24 billion (in 2017 dollars).

While the total cost is increasing, mainly due to an increase in the number of people living with MS and the cost of newer treatments, the average yearly cost for individuals (both direct and indirect) has increased by less than $10,000 over the past 7 years (from $58,652 in 2010 to $68,382 in 2017, or 17%). This is due to a significant reduction in lost wages and informal care costs for people with MS compared to 2010.  

Lost wages now account for just one third (32%) of the total economic burden of MS compared to almost half (49%) of the overall cost burden seven years ago.

“Progress in research and advancements in treatments for MS have been transforming the path of the condition in this country and around the world over the past decade – notably in the relapsing form of MS” states Dr Mathew Miles, CEO MS Research Australia.

“We are seeing some positive and clear signs that we are starting to make a real difference, giving many the potential to continue to have a very productive life, remaining well and in the workforce, supporting their families and contributing to society – it is very exciting to see,” adds Dr Miles.

MS is an autoimmune disease where the myelin sheath covering the nerve fibres in the central nervous system is damaged, leading to impairment of motor and/or sensory functions, fatigue, pain and cognitive symptoms. It is the most common neurological condition in young adults. The majority of Australians with MS (85%) are diagnosed with the relapsing remitting form of MS, while 10-15% are diagnosed with a progressive form of MS in which disability accumulates right from the start, even in the absence of acute relapses.

“While this report shows positive signs and a shift towards improving outcomes, MS remains a very challenging condition, particularly in those with more progressive forms, placing a very significant burden on people and their families. MS is most frequently diagnosed when people are in the prime of their life,” adds Dr Miles.

The Report suggests that the 20% increase in the number of Australians living with MS is largely due to more people living with MS for longer. Women continue to represent more than three quarters (78%) of those with MS in Australia.

“The introduction of new generation disease modifying therapies (DMTs) with improved efficacy over the past few years has had profound effects on the management of the disease and also on the costs of MS,” comments Professor Andrew Palmer, Health Economics Research Unit, Menzies Institute for Medical Research, University of Tasmania.

“We can’t take our foot off the pedal, as while there are positive signs, we need to maintain the momentum and continue to make improvements in the management and care of MS, including interventions aimed at stopping the relapses and preventing the progression of MS, so we can reduce the human and economic burden even further,” said Professor Palmer.

Link to the full report.


Notes to editors:

This Report is being launched by the Hon. Scott Morrison MP at Parliament House, Canberra on Wednesday 22nd August 2018, 10.30 – 11.30am.

The report is a MS Research Australia initiative and was supported by an unconditional grant provided to MS Research Australia by Merck Australia.

About MS Research Australia: MS Research Australia is the largest national not-for-profit organisation dedicated to funding, coordinating, educating and advocating for MS research as part of the worldwide effort to solve MS.

MS Research Australia was awarded the 2017 Telstra Australian Charity Award and the Telstra NSW Business of the Year. For further information visit

About the Menzies Institute for Medical Research, University of Tasmania:

The University of Tasmania’s Menzies Institute for Medical Research exists to improve human health and well-being by performing excellent basic, clinical and population health research that focuses on the major diseases affecting the Tasmanian community. Our research takes a bench-to-bedside and disease prevention approach and is aimed at improving patient care and clinical outcomes for the community by translating knowledge into clinical and policy actions.

Contact: Tina Wall or Jasper Pearson

Phone: Tina Wall on 0408 627 799 or Jasper Pearson on 0473 000 909.0473 000 909