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Responding to the COVID-19 impact on multiple sclerosis

The socioeconomic cost of, and impact of COVID-19 on, multiple sclerosis (MS) in Canada

MS Canada commissioned Deloitte Access Economics to provide an up-to-date estimate of the socioeconomic cost of MS in Canada in a typical year before the pandemic (2019) and estimate the health-related economic impact of COVID-19 on the MS community in Canada between 2020 and 2024.


Canada has one of the highest rates of MS in the world. It is the most common neurological disease among young adults in Canada, imposing a considerable cost on the health system and Canadian society more broadly. The COVID-19 pandemic significantly disrupted the delivery of health care to Canadians, including the 90,000 people living with MS.

It was estimated that MS costed more than $3.4 billion in Canada in 2019. This comprises direct expenditure on the health system (38% of total), productivity losses (39%), and a range of other financial costs (23%). This is equivalent to a cost of over $42,880 per case of MS. Pharmaceuticals were responsible for most of the cost to the health system, with an estimated $1.1 billion (or 87% of health system costs) in expenditure in 2019.

This study estimated that changes in the provision of health services between 2020 and 2022 reduced MS-related health expenditure by $566 million. This represents a 13% reduction compared to the expenditure that would have been expected in these years had COVID-related disruptions not occurred. It was found that the reduction in health system costs was likely to persist until mid-2023 due to the time required for the health system to recalibrate from the impacts of the pandemic.

Beyond this point, health system costs related to MS are estimated to rise to $1.47 billion in 2024, representing an incremental cost of $72.8 million compared to the base case of an unaffected year. Projections also indicate that this effect is likely to extend beyond the timeframe modelled in this study due to the lasting effects of the backlog in health services.

Findings presented here are expected to provide a framework to understand and assess the potential consequences of the pandemic on people with MS. Informed predictions on these potential consequences may guide swift and timely policy decisions related to MS health care services to mitigate “snowballing” of negative outcomes.


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