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Expert Rev Resp Med. 2008;2(2):145-147. 

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New Data on Asthma Costs and Utilization

New data on asthma costs and utilization have been published online in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. The study reports that newer, more costly controller therapies for asthma are being dispensed more frequently, but it has been difficult to say whether or not they are cost effective.

Robert Zeiger and colleagues compared the medical costs and relative effectiveness of single asthma controller therapy with other asthma drug regimens.

The authors analyzed the 2002-2004 records of prescriptions, healthcare utilization and total medical costs of a group of 96,631 asthma patients in a large managed care organization. Within the limits of the retrospective cost analyses they found that total asthma drug costs were significantly lower for patients who used a single controller inhaled corticosteroid (ICS), compared with those who used a single controller leukotriene modifier, long-acting β-agonists, theophylline and most combination controller regimens.

They also found that use of a single controller ICS compared with single controller leukotriene modifiers and combination controllers was associated with significantly lower asthma-related utilization of healthcare services. These findings support the national asthma guidelines that recommend single controller ICS as the preferred single asthma controller treatment.

Asthma is a prevalent disease in the USA, affecting approximately 16 million adults and 6.5 million children. With the steady increase in the incidence of asthma during recent decades, medical costs, urgent care and hospitalization costs, and work loss costs have risen to nearly US$13 billion. Asthma drugs represented 43% of the US$7 billion direct medical costs.

Source: Zeiger RS, Hay JW, Contreras R et al. Asthma costs and utilization in a managed care organization. J. Allergy Clin. Immunol. DOI:10.1016/j.jaci.2007.12.1178 (2008) (Epub ahead of print).

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