COVID Disruptions to Cost Multiple Sclerosis Community $600-Million

New report quantifies the cost of MS at over $3 billion annually, and points to additional major “COVID Gap” costs through higher health care expenses, economic productivity and wellbeing loss 

OTTAWA (October 18, 2023) – A new research report by Deloitte Access Economics concluded that emergency COVID-19 health measures have had a severe negative impact on Canada’s multiple sclerosis (MS) community.  MS is a chronic autoimmune disease of the central nervous system affecting over 90,000 Canadians, with approximately 12 diagnosed every day.  

Seeking to quantify the impact of pandemic health measures and their disruption on the healthcare system, the independent report found that delayed and disrupted diagnosis and treatment of Canadians living with MS resulted in the equivalent to a nearly $600 million increase in additional health care costs, lost economic productivity, and wellbeing between 2020 and 2024. 

This COVID “gap” is expected to get worse, unless immediate steps are taken to remedy the delayed diagnosis and foregone treatment. 

Download the full report: 
Key findings: 

Key Findings: 

  • In a normal (non-disrupted) year, the annual cost of MS to Canada is significant, totalling more than $3.4 billion in direct health costs, productivity loss and other costs. 

  • The COVID-19 disruption caused worse outcomes for Canadians living with MS through delayed MS diagnosis, and delayed or foregone MS treatment. 

  • Delayed diagnosis and disrupted treatment will generate an additional $578.2 million in MS-related health system expenditure,  productivity losses, and lost wellbeing between 2020 and 2024. 

  • These additional health and economic costs of the COVID-19 disruption are expected to continue, unless governments take bold action now to retroactively make up for delayed diagnosis and delayed treatment by investing in MS research to prevent MS and to close the COVID-19 gap by boosting MS specialist care. 


  • “Early diagnosis and timely intervention with the most effective treatment is key to protecting brain health, preserving function, and minimizing the impact on our healthcare system.” – Dr. Pamela Valentine, President and CEO of MS Canada 

  • “The COVID-19 gap will cost Canada’s health care systems more in the future, to treat a disease that could have been diagnosed earlier and treated faster, for better outcomes.  An average of 12 Canadians are diagnosed every day.  Early intervention matters.” – Dr. Pamela Valentine, President and CEO of MS Canada 

  • “The COVID-19 gap has led to a health services backlog and unmet health needs for Canadians living with MS. It has led to progression of MS in many Canadians, due to delayed or halted treatments – this will impact these individuals and their families’ quality of life and livelihood. – Dr. Pamela Valentine, President and CEO of MS Canada 

  • “Delays and changes to treatment can lead to irreversible disease progression and disability. Treatment has been found to delay onset of disability by ten years, and reduce the risk of mortality by 30%. – Dr. Pamela Valentine, President and CEO of MS Canada 

  • “If we want to mitigate this impact to the MS community, governments can step up – and ultimately save themselves money – by doing these things: investing $15 million immediately in prevention and treatment research building on the breakthrough discovery linking Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) to MS, and boosting MS specialist care by funding additional MS healthcare professionals - from MS nurses to neurologists.” – Dr. Pamela Valentine, President and CEO of MS Canada 

  • “There is a saying that ‘time is brain’ – meaning delayed care means irreversibly worse outcomes for the patient. When nervous tissue is lost or damaged, it cannot be recovered. You can’t ‘catch up later’ with treatment.” – Dr. Pamela Valentine, President and CEO of MS Canada 

  • “Australia has just announced $18 million in research funding to follow up on a breakthrough link between MS and Epstien-Barr virus (EBV), which could foreseeably lead to a preventative vaccine. Canada must do the same, as this is ‘Canada’s disease’.” – Dr. Pamela Valentine, President and CEO of MS Canada 

About MS 

  • Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease of the central nervous system (CNS). The immune system attacks myelin (protective covering of the nerves) in the brain, spinal cord, and optic nerve, which disrupts communication between the CNS and the rest of the body. The disease course of MS is unpredictable, often occurring in a pattern of relapses and remissions also known as an episodic disability. 

  • Canada has one of the highest rates of MS in the world.  Over 90,000 Canadians live with MS, and on average, 12 Canadians are diagnosed with MS every day. 

  • The onset of MS is typically between the ages of 20-49. 

  • Women are 3x more likely to be diagnosed with MS than men. 

  • A recent landmark study by a research team at Harvard University found that in almost every case of MS, onset occurred after an infection by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), an association that was not found with any other common virus. As EBV is now established as the leading risk factor, it provides researchers a distinct target to focus their efforts and pursue MS prevention and therapeutic strategies by targeting EBV with potential vaccines and antivirals. 

About MS Canada 

MS Canada fosters meaningful connections both within the MS community, and between the MS community and research, programs, resources, and services. As of 2023, MS Canada amalgamates two previously known entities, the MS Society of Canada and the MS Scientific Research Foundation, continuing its work toward the same vision of a world free of multiple sclerosis. The MS community is at the centre of MS Canada.  

For 75 years we have been relentless in our fight, continuously funding research to expand the current MS knowledge base. We also advocate for people living with MS, asking the government to remove barriers and improve policies that impact their everyday lives.  


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For further information:   
Cathy Bouwers, Director of Public Relations & Strategic Communications