Make treating gout priority - specialist

20:16, Jul 26 2013
$3.2B COST: Catherine Swift and Dr Douglas White want better education about gout.

A Hamilton specialist has labelled New Zealand the "gout capital of the world" but says it is a treatable condition that should be made a priority.

Gout occurs when uric acid crystallises into needle-like shapes in the joints and could damage the joint and kidneys and cause skin ulcers, and was the second-most common form of arthritis in the country.

The estimated cost of all forms of arthritis in New Zealand, including gout, was $3.2 billion a year.

"It's massive. People end up on the invalid's benefit because of gout and it's fixable," Waikato District Health Board rheumatologist Douglas White said.

An international study found people with gout took an extra four days off work each year than those without gout, and in New Zealand in-patient costs were an estimated $2.4 million a year.

Maori and Polynesian men were genetically prone to gout and the cases Dr White saw at the clinic were the "tip of the iceberg".


"I think it needs to be placed appropriately as one of New Zealand's health priorities to deal with that."

Arthritis New Zealand estimated 15 per cent of Maori (22,000) and Pasifika (13,750) men suffered from gout compared with 5.8 per cent of European-Pakeha men because of "inherently higher levels of uric acid in the blood".

The New Zealand Rheumatology Association will next month hold its annual scientific meeting in Hamilton, at which gout would be a prominent issue.

Dr White said better education was a key factor in treatment.

Arthritis New Zealand's Catherine Swift was an educator and worked with community groups in Waikato to reduce the stigma of gout, which acted as a barrier to treatment.

"The kidney is the underlying issue but if you eat or drink a lot of these things that are not helpful then it's like trying to push things through a blocked plug," she said.

Arthritis NZ chief executive Sandra Kirby said people did not have to live with gout pain and she pushed for a uric acid test to be added to cardio-vascular and diabetes health targets.

"For anyone who's had a gout attack, it is exquisite agony," she said. "It is very much about the economics of not being able to work so the impact on the family is huge."

She said allopurinol and the newly funded drug, benzbromarone, were effective treatments that could control gout.

"The most effective thing that this government could do to get some Maori and Pacific men back to work would be to test for gout and treat it." Fairfax NZ

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