Purpose:  To examine the characteristics and healthcare costs of fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) patients in clinical practice.

Materials and methods:  Using a US health-insurance database, we identified all patients, aged ≥ 18 years, with any healthcare encounters for FMS (ICD-9-CM diagnosis code 729.1) in each year of the 3-year period, 1 July 2002 to 30 June 2005. A comparison group was then constituted, consisting of randomly selected patients without any healthcare encounters for FMS during this 3-year period. Comparison group patients were matched to FMS patients based on age and sex. Characteristics and healthcare costs of FMS patients and comparison group patients were then examined over the 1-year period, 1 July 2004 to 30 June 2005 (the most recent year for which data were available at the time of the study).

Results:  The study sample consisted of 33,176 FMS patients and an identical number in the comparison group. Mean age was 46 years, and 75% were women. FMS patients were more likely to have various comorbidities, including painful neuropathies (23% vs. 3% for comparison group), anxiety (5% vs. 1%), and depression (12% vs. 3%) (all p < 0.001); they also were more likely to have used pain-related pharmacotherapy (65% vs. 34% for comparison group; p < 0.001). Mean (SD) total healthcare costs over 12 months were about three times higher among FMS patients [$9573 ($20,135) vs. $3291 ($13,643); p < 0.001]; median costs were fivefold higher ($4247 vs. $822; p < 0.001).

Conclusions:  Patients with FMS have comparatively high levels of comorbidities and high levels of healthcare utilization and cost.