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Current strategies for treating patients with several chronic diseases are putting an unnecessary financial burden on countries’ health systems and individuals, a global study led by the National University of Singapore and the University of Melbourne has found.

Experts say that the current clinical practice of tackling each disease in isolation may lead to the prescription of unnecessary medicines, resulting in patient expenses that are disproportionate to the number of conditions they have.

The research article is published today in the international journal BMJ Global Health.

The team analysed the raw data from 14 global studies that measured the out-of-pocket expenditure – costs not covered by insurance – of patients with multiple chronic diseases.

These patients, who have what is known as multimorbidity, suffer from high out-of-pocket costs and may stop taking their medicines as a result. The elderly and low-income groups are particularly at risk.

Dr Grace Sum Chi-En, lead author from the National University of Singapore, said that chronic diseases are conditions that are not infectious and are usually long-term, such as diabetes, hypertension, cancer, arthritis, stroke, obesity, and depression.

Dr Sum said: “Patients may have financial support from insurance benefits to visit their general practitioners or

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