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CDC Study Puts Economic Burden of Asthma at More Than $80 Billion Per Year

Allison Inserro
Asthma costs the U.S. economy more than $80 billion annually in medical expenses, days missed from work and school, and deaths, according to research published online in the Annals of the American Thoracic Society. However, actual numbers are likely to be higher, according to CDC researchers who conducted the study.
Asthma costs the US economy more than $80 billion annually in medical expenses, days missed from work and school, and deaths, according to research published online in the Annals of the American Thoracic Society. However, actual numbers are likely to be higher, since the researchers from the CDC only counted “treated asthma,” defined as having at least 1 medical encounter for asthma or having a prescription for at least 1 asthma medicine filled during a calendar year.

The study also did not account for nonmedical costs associated with asthma, including transportation expenses, time lost waiting for appointments, and diminished productivity while functioning at work or school with asthma.

Prescription drug costs were the largest share of per-person medical costs for asthma.

"The cost of asthma is one of the most important measures of the burden of the disease," said Tursynbek Nurmagambetov, PhD, lead study author and CDC health economist, in a statement. "Cost studies can influence health policy decisions and help decision makers understand the scale, seriousness and implications of asthma, so that resources can be identified to improve disease management and reduce the burden of asthma."

In "The Economic Burden of Asthma in the United States, 2008-2013," CDC researchers analyzed data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey.  Of 213,994 respondents to the survey over a 6-year period, the study identified 10,237 people with treated asthma. Based on the 2008-2013 pooled sample, the study estimated (all costs are expressed in 2015 US dollars):
  • About 15.4 million people in the United States had treated asthma each year
  • The total annual cost of asthma in the United States, including medical care, absenteeism and mortality, was $81.9 billion
  • The annual per-person medical cost of asthma was $3266, of which:
    • $1830 was for prescriptions
    • $640 for office visits
    • $529 for hospitalizations
    • $176 for hospital outpatient visits
    • $105 for emergency department (ED) care
  • Asthma-related mortality cost $29 billion per year, representing an average 3168 deaths
  • Missed work and school days, combined, cost $3 billion per year, representing 8.7 million workdays and 5.2 million school days
  • People with no health insurance had significantly lower per person total medical expenditure for asthma compared with insured people
Children with asthma missed 2.3 additional school days annually during 2008–2013, at a per-child cost of $207. Adults with asthma missed 1.8 days annually, resulting in almost $214 lost earnings per worker annually.

"The findings of the paper highlight the critical need to support and further strengthen asthma control strategies," Nurmagambetov said. "CDC's National Asthma Control Program was founded in 1999 to help reduce the burden of asthma in the United States. In order to reduce asthma-related ER visits, hospitalizations, absenteeism and mortality, we need to support guidelines-based care, expand self-management education and reduce environmental asthma triggers at homes."



 
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