A retrospective study analyzing data on insurance claims from patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) revealed that the disease is associated with a significant economic and healthcare burden. The study, titled “Clinical and economic burden of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis: a retrospective cohort study,” was published in the BMC Pulmonary Medicine journal.
IPF is a chronic, progressive disease characterized by the accumulation of fibrotic tissue in patients’ lungs, leading to dyspnea, cough and significant impairment of lung function. Patients often are burdened with comorbid conditions, including pulmonary hypertension, gastroesophageal reflux disease, obesity, emphysema, cardiovascular conditions, and obstructive sleep apnea.
Management guidelines for IPF patients include lung transplantation and long-term oxygen as potential therapies. Even though there is a considerable lack of studies on the subject, IPF patients are thought to require greater health care resource utilization, with subsequent higher medical costs when compared to patients without IPF.
A group of researchers at Genentech Inc., together with colleagues at the Partnership for Health Analytic Research, LLC, analyzed a large Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) claims database to characterize the economic burden associated with IPF. The study included three annual cohorts of IPF patients, with data (from January 1, 2009, to December 31, 2011) covering four U.S. geographical regions — the Midwest, Northeast, South and West.
The research team observed that patients had a mean age of 69 to 71 years old, and in general were frequent users of healthcare services, with approximately 19 outpatient visits per year. One-third of the patients were hospitalized at least once a year (with 30 percent going through the emergency room). During the time period analyzed, inpatient and outpatient care rose to a total annual cost of about $60,000 per patient (a significant portion of the costs, around one-third, was due to respiratory-related care).
Database analyses do have limitations, but the study suggests that IPF prevalence in this claims database increased with age. Furthermore, the research team found that IPF was associated with a large economic and healthcare burden. Additional studies are required to investigate and develop strategies to reduce IPF’s burden.