OBJECTIVE: To determine the prevalence, incidence, and burden of gout in the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) from 2005-2014.
METHODS: We used national VHA data from 1/1999-12/2014 to determine the annual incidence and prevalence of gout in the VHA. Gout burden to the VHA was determined by the proportion of patients with an encounter related to gout. Rates of urate lowering therapy (ULT) and opiate use were determined annually. Characteristics of those with and without gout were compared using 2014 data.
RESULTS: From 2005 to 2014, gout prevalence in the VHA increased from 4.2% to 5.8% while disease incidence ranged from 5.8 to 7.4 cases per 1000 patient-years. Gout prevalence was highest among men, older patients, and non-Hispanic blacks. During 2014, 4.0% of all inpatient or outpatient encounters and 1.3% of hospitalizations were gout-related. ULT administration remained stable over the ten-year period, with 46% of gout patients receiving ULT in 2014. In contrast, 16.4% of prevalent gout patients were receiving a weak opioid in 2014, nearly doubling the prescription rate of weak opioids in 2005 while the use of stronger opioids did not change significantly over this period. Patients with gout had greater comorbidity and healthcare utilization than patients without gout.
CONCLUSION: The burden posed by gout in the VHA is considerable and increased between 2005 and 2014. While the use of ULT has remained stable, the use of opioid therapy has increased among patients with gout.