How expensive is healthcare for atopic dermatitis patients?

Published online: November 21, 2017

Atopic dermatitis is a chronic itchy skin condition with a substantial burden of disease. Patients with atopic dermatitis require medical care for their condition from primary care providers and dermatology and allergy specialists. In severe cases, patients with atopic dermatitis may even require visits to emergency rooms and admissions to inpatient hospitals. Treatments for atopic dermatitis, including creams and ointments, phototherapy, and pills that suppress the immune system, add to the cost of caring for atopic dermatitis. In order to understand the financial burden of this common condition, up-to-date estimates of the resources used by patients with atopic dermatitis and their associated costs are needed.

In a study recently published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice, Drucker et al aimed to provide estimates of the healthcare resource utilization and costs of adult atopic dermatitis in a large U.S. insurance database. The authors compared resources used and costs between patients with atopic dermatitis and other insured individuals matched by age and sex. Patients with severe atopic dermatitis (assessed based on the treatments they were prescribed) were compared with patients with less severe disease. The study included 10,533 atopic dermatitis patients, 37% of whom had severe disease, and 31,599 patients without atopic dermatitis.

Patients with atopic dermatitis used more healthcare resources, costing more money than controls without atopic dermatitis. Even after taking into account factors such as asthma and other chronic conditions associated with atopic dermatitis, participants with atopic dermatitis had six more outpatient clinic visits and filled six more prescriptions per year compared with people without atopic dermatitis. On average, patients with atopic dermatitis cost $3,302 more per year than people without atopic dermatitis. People with more severe atopic dermatitis used even more resources; compared to patients not requiring phototherapy or oral medications, those using those more advanced therapies cost $4,463 more per year.

The burden of atopic dermatitis is multi-faceted, including impacts on quality of life, medical and psychiatric comorbidities, and financial costs to patients and the healthcare system. This study provides an estimate of the medical costs associated with atopic dermatitis. Additionally, estimates of the additional costs associated with more severe disease requiring advanced therapies are presented.

The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice is an official journal of the AAAAI, focusing on practical information for the practicing clinician.

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