ME/CFS economic cost: $14.5B each year

National Centre for Neuroimmunology and Emerging Diseases Co-Directors Professor Sonya Marshall-Gradisnik and Professor Don Staines

Griffith University research has calculated the cost of the debilitating illness myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) at $14.5 billion each year in Australia.

Professor Sonya Marshall-Gradisnik, co-director of the National Centre for Neuroimmunology and Emerging Diseases (NCNED), says the figure shows the significant economic toll on patients and the broader health economy.

“Our cost of illness analysis accounts for direct health care system costs, out of pocket expenses, the cost of accessing health care and the indirect cost associated with lost income.

“We know patients and carers experience considerable medical and social burdens, but less well known is the extraordinary economic cost to patients, their carers and the Australian economy.”

“We know patients and carers experience considerable medical and social burdens, but less well known is the extraordinary economic cost to patients, their carers and the Australian economy.”

NCNED co-director Professor Don Staines said while ME/CFS patients bore the biggest cost burden, health care costs due to hospitalisation and related services for the Australian Government amounted to about $858 million annually.

“The considerable cost to the Australian economy from this illness must be recognised and governments need to invest more in the diagnosis and management of this debilitating condition to mitigate the burden of ME/CFS in Australia and globally.”

Professor Marshall-Gradisnik said the findings could impact future Australian health-care economic policy as some COVID-19 patients were reportedly exhibiting ME/CFS like symptoms.

The research is published in Frontiers of Public Health. It is the first economic impact study of ME/CFS in Australia, from researchers at NCNED, Menzies Health Institute of Queensland and Griffith University.