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Arthritis may cost UK £8bn a year

As much as £8bn is spent every year in the UK on treating and dealing with the effects of rheumatoid arthritis - double the previous estimate.

Alisa Bosworth, Chief Executive of the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society (NRAS), which produced the report, said: "The scale of these losses is vast.

"Unless rheumatoid arthritis is diagnosed and treated early, the effects on long-term health can be disastrous, forcing people to leave work in the prime of their lives and placing families under significant financial strain."

Around 26,000 new cases of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) are diagnosed each year in England alone, and more than 690,000 people in the UK are believed to be living with the condition.

The auto-immune disease causes progressive destruction of the joints and can lead to severe disability.

It most commonly hits during a person's working life between the ages of 40 and 50. For this reason RA is recognised as a major economic burden.

The new figures are based on the numbers of sufferers, the long-term cost of treatment, and the amount of productive working life lost as a result of the disease.

National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society