Impact of Osteoarthritis Felt Beyond Pain: New Survey Finds GI Complications Associated with Medication and Impact on Workplace Also Significant

~ Canadian data reveals 80 per cent of sufferers indicate their OA affects ability to perform their job1 ~

MISSISSAUGA, ON, Sept. 20, 2011 /CNW/ - Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are widely-used because of their ability to effectively relieve the pain and inflammation associated with osteoarthritis (OA); however, a new national survey of Canadians with osteoarthritis finds that most are unaware of their risk for NSAID-related gastrointestinal (GI) side effects, and the importance of protecting their stomach.

NSAIDs are the most commonly prescribed medications for osteoarthritis, and up to 87 per cent of regular NSAID users are at increased risk of developing GI complications.2 Yet the Gut Check survey reveals that 35 per cent of Canadians with OA at risk of NSAID-associated GI complications were not aware they were at risk, while approximately 25 per cent could not identify at least one risk factor for developing GI side effects associated with NSAID use.1

"Risk factors for NSAID-associated upper gastrointestinal side effects include age, history of GI events, concomitant use of oral corticosteroids and anticoagulants, high-dose or multiple NSAID use and concurrent use of aspirin," says Dr. Peter Lin, family physician in Toronto. "Rather than managing these risk factors and taking steps to protect their stomachs, many patients instead discontinue use of their NSAID, and as a result have to live in pain due to gastrointestinal side effects or safety concerns."

Low awareness of GI side effects associated with pain medication places people at unnecessary risk and can take a toll on many different aspects of daily life, particularly the workplace. The survey reveals absenteeism, productivity and relationships with co-workers are being impacted as a result of the pain associated with osteoarthritis and side effects related to the use of their pain medication.

Gut Check further reveals 35 per cent of working Canadians with OA have taken sick days as a result of the pain associated with their condition, 19 per cent have reduced their work hours and 14 per cent have taken a short-term disability leave from work.1 Eight-in-ten surveyed indicated their osteoarthritis affects their ability to perform their job1 and among those affected "a great deal" by their condition at work, most feel they are less efficient (81 per cent), less productive (75 per cent) and unable to perform all their job functions (66 per cent).1 In addition, 24 per cent considered leaving their job permanently as a result of their pain.1

"It is especially concerning when the impact of osteoarthritis reaches into the workplace, resulting in life-changing circumstances, such as losing your income because of a condition that can be managed," says Paula Allen, Vice President, Practice Leader Health and Benefit Solutions at Morneau Shepell. "The results of this survey are a wake-up call for employers, and drives home the need for effective health and wellness programs for employees, offering the education, support and treatment needed to maintain a healthy workplace environment."

Proton pump inhibitor (PPI) therapy is effective in protecting the stomach and reducing the risk of stomach ulcers, but patient compliance is low.4 The survey finds that 33 per cent of Canadians with OA stopped taking their PPI or GI medication while continuing on NSAIDs because they started to "feel better" (45 per cent) and prefer to take less medication (40 per cent).1 However, 34 per cent of respondents experienced complications, most commonly GI, as a result of stopping their PPI or GI medication while continuing on their NSAID.1 Yet, less than 10 per cent always discuss GI side effects with their physician.1

"By self-identifying and understanding the GI risk factors that can be associated with NSAIDs, Canadians can more effectively partner with their physician to ensure they are protecting their stomachs while taking their osteoarthritis medications. This will allow them to get the benefits of their NSAID while lowering their GI risk," says Dr. Lin.

Osteoarthritis, which affects approximately three million Canadians,5 is the most common form of arthritis and is a degenerative joint disease caused by the breakdown and eventual loss of the cartilage of one or more joints.5 A common misconception is that arthritis is a disease of the elderly, however 58 per cent of arthritis patients are under the age of 65.6

Conducted by Leger Marketing and sponsored by AstraZeneca in partnership with Morneau Shepell the survey was designed to assess awareness of GI risk factors associated with NSAIDs among Canadians diagnosed with OA. The survey also investigated the impact of OA and GI events on the workplace. The survey was completed on-line from November 15, 2010 to November 29, 2010 using Leger Marketing's online panel, LegerWeb, with a sample of 881 Canadian adults diagnosed with osteoarthritis, of which 473 were currently employed.  A probability sample of the same size would yield a margin of error of ±3.3% and ±4.5% for a sub-sample of employed Canadians, respectively.

Morneau Shepell Inc. is the largest Canadian-based firm providing group benefits and pensions consulting and administration, EAP and Health Management. The company's solutions are designed to assist employers in managing the financial security, health and productivity of their employees. With over 2,400 employees in offices across North America, Morneau Shepell Inc. provides its services to organizations in Canada, the United States and around the globe.

AstraZeneca is committed to the research, development and manufacturing of valuable prescription medicines. We have an extensive product portfolio spanning six therapeutic areas: gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, infection, neuroscience, oncology and respiratory. AstraZeneca's Canadian headquarters are located in Mississauga, Ontario, and a state-of-the art drug discovery centre is based in Montreal, Quebec. For more information, please visit the company's website at

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1 Leger Marketing. Osteoarthritis Study. January 1, 2011.
2 Lanas, et al; Assessment of gastrointestinal and cardiovascular risk in patients with osteoarthritis who require NSAIDs: the LOGICA study. Annals of Rheumatic Diseases 2010;69:1453-1458.
3 Rostom, et al. Canadian consensus guidelines on long-term nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug therapy and the need for gastroprotection: benefits versus risks. Alimentary Pharmacology &Therapeutics 2009;29: 481-496.
4 Goldstein, et al; PN 400 Significantly Reduces the Incidence of Gastric Ulcers Compared With Enteric-Coated Naproxen in Patients Requiring Chronic NSAID Therapy Regardless of Low-Dose Aspirin Use: Results from Two Prospective, Randomized Controlled Trials. Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics 2010; 32: 401-413.
5 The Arthritis Society. Osteoarthritis. Accessed July 2011.
6 Public Health Agency of Canada.  2010 Life with Arthritis in Canada - A Personal and Public Health Challenge. Accessed July  2011.

SOURCE AstraZeneca Canada Inc.

For further information:

Stephanie Yack 
Tel: 416-849-8949 

Michelle Riccio
AstraZeneca Canada
Tel: 905-615-6828

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