Economic Burden of MS – 2021 Report

A recently released report by the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research (NZIER), commissioned by the Multiple Sclerosis Society of New Zealand (MSNZ) shows that earlier intervention of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) will not only save New Zealand’s health system millions of dollars per year, it will also contribute millions back into the economy through individual income related earnings.

In 2021 the total estimated employment related loss for individuals with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) was $82 million.  Additionally, the total social cost associated with the prevalence of MS was estimated to be $266.3 million in the same period.

The report states – understanding the total costs and benefits of a health challenge is good health economics which matters for society because a person’s health has implications for families, society, and the economy.

Although the understanding of MS is evolving. The NZIER report provides evidence that earlier intervention and medicines funding access are key to positive outcomes for both people with MS and the New Zealand economy.

In 2021, around 4,130 people suffered with MS across New Zealand.  Predominantly aged between 25 to 50 years old, these people tend to be in their peak earning years and making consequential financial decisions such as home loans and re-financing, household debt and consumption, children and retirement saving plans. The financial consequences of lost employment and lost potential to earn due to the onset of MS are likely to be significant.  Individuals’ financial decisions are invariably informed by assumed continued employment and the financial pay-offs associated with career progression.  MS can significantly disrupt these plans and oppose unanticipated costs on households and society.


Research objectives:

  1. Assess the economic burden of MS, including the impacts on health quality, productivity and economic wellbeing.
  2. Compare the approaches taken by PHARMAC, which uses cost-utility analysis and social cost-benefit analysis, recommended by Treasury.
  3.  Recommend an approach that focuses most on supporting improvement in everyday life and enhances the general wellbeing of people with MS


How will the study be of benefit?

Understanding the total costs and benefits of a health challenge is good health economics which matters for society because a person’s health has implications for families, society, and the economy.

The results have also supported MSNZs advocacy work in pushing for funding for new treatments for the management of MS.

For New Zealand to progress in the assessment of the social cost and benefits of health intervention relating to MS and other conditions, the report proposes the following changes need to be considered:

  • Greater use of social-benefit analysis in pharmacoeconomic analyses would provide greater insight into the benefits of emerging treatments for MS.
  • Adding cost-benefit analysis to the suite of tools would support more fulsome decisions about how to set budgets to deliver better health and wellbeing outcomes for New Zealanders.
  • Commissioning research into the social benefits and costs would support greater transparency.


Key Findings

The report found that access to medicines in New Zealand is falling behind compared to OECD countries due to a combination of reasons, including:

  • Medicines funding is not keeping pace with health spending
  • Social costs and benefits being systematically under-counted in funding decisions
  • The emergence of effective new medicines is not accommodated by current funding appraisal processes
  • The speed of access to new medicines can be slower in New Zealand than elsewhere
  • In 2021, around 4,130 people had MS
  • MS affects people in their prime earning and caring years. These factors are not always fully considered in funding decisions
  • MS is a disease of the middle-aged, with onset of symptoms occurring predominately in people aged 25 to 50 years old.


Further information:

Economic burden of MS 2021

Read the Media Release: Economic Burden Report