Costs of Care for Crohn’s, UC, Have Increased Over Last Five Years in US, Study Says

Costs of Care for Crohn’s, UC, Have Increased Over Last Five Years in US, Study Says
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costs of care increase

The costs of care for people with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) living in the U.S. have steadily increased over the last five years, primarily due to the high price tag for IBD therapies, frequent emergency department visits, and treatments for other related disorders, the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation found.

Patients with IBD had healthcare costs three times higher than those without the disease, the study found.

The study, “The Cost of Inflammatory Bowel Disease: An Initiative From the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation,” was published in Inflammatory Bowel Diseases, and presented at a poster session during the Digestive Disease Week conference, held recently in San Diego.

“To truly understand the financial impact of IBD, we commissioned a study to look at the drivers of cost of care for Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis,” Michael Osso, president and CEO of the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation, said in a press release.

“The results of this study confirm what we suspected — having IBD places an enormous financial burden on patients and their families. We must work together as a community to tackle the costs to ensure that patients have access to the treatments they need, when they need it,” Osso said. 

In addition to characterizing the drivers of healthcare costs for those with IBD, the study also focused on assessing the costs of care among newly diagnosed patients, and describing the direct and indirect care costs people with the disease face every year.

Researchers looked at claims data that had been stored at the Optum Research Database from 2007 to 2016. That data contained information about both commercially insured and Medicare Advantage-insured patients living in the U.S.

The mean costs paid per member per year (PMPY) — reflecting the costs of care incurred by each patient every year — was calculated by averaging the total healthcare costs of medical treatment, including charges for lab tests and medical facilities, and pharmaceutical costs. Patients’ healthcare costs were calculated based on charges paid by health plans, those paid by patients, and combined total costs.

The study analyzed claims data from a total 52,782 IBD patients — 29,062 with ulcerative colitis (UC) and 23,720 with Crohn’s disease (CD) — and 52,782 people without IBD (controls).

Results showed that people with IBD faced annual costs of care that were more than three times higher than those who don’t have the disease — $22,987 in PMPY paid claims versus $6,956. In addition, out-of-pocket costs for IBD patients were more than two times those of controls. People with IBD paid average per-year costs of $2,213 versus the $979 paid by those without the disease.

The financial burden associated with IBD was higher during the first year after an individual’s diagnosis, reaching an average of $26,555 per patient, per year.

Researchers also found that children and elder IBD patients — those older than age 65 — incurred a financial burden up to 46% higher compared with individuals with IBD ages 35 to 44.

Study findings indicated three factors as the biggest drivers of healthcare costs among people with IBD: therapy costs, including biologic agents, opioids, and steroids; frequent emergency department visits; and treatment for comorbidities, or other related diseases, such as anemia or mental disorders.

“The Foundation and the Cost of IBD Task Force emphasized the call to work collaboratively — including stakeholders from academia, industry, government, payers, and patient and caregiver partners — to address the increasing direct and indirect cost burden to patients and families, and developing programs to address the management of cost drivers, such as psychiatric comorbidities, treatable anemias, corticosteroids, and opioids,” the researchers said.

“While we have made great progress in the medical management of IBD, our patients and their families face great challenges in handling the financial burdens of chronic illness,” said David Rubin, a co-author of the study and chair-elect of the Foundation’s National Scientific Advisory Committee.

The Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation plans to use these findings to develop new resources, educational programs, and policy recommendations to minimize the costs associated with the main drivers of healthcare costs in IBD.

The study was funded by the The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust and United Health Group.

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