Study shows digestive, liver woes cost nation $85.5 billion annually

(Embargoed) CHAPEL HILL -- Taken together, digestive diseases directly cost the United States an estimated $85.5 billion a year, according to a new study written by a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine faculty member and colleagues.

The study, published in the May issue of Gastroenterology, showed the most prevalent diseases were non-food-borne gastroenteritis with 135 million cases a year, food-borne illnesses with 76 million cases, gastroesophageal reflux disease with 19 million cases and irritable bowel syndrome with 15 million cases.

Commissioned by the American Gastroenterological Association of Bethesda, Md., the study chiefly relied on data assembled by the Lewin Group, a Falls Church, Va.-based research organization.

The disease with the highest annual direct costs in the U.S. was gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, at $9.3 billion, said Dr. Robert S. Sandler, professor of medicine and epidemiology. Gallbladder disease cost $5.8 billion, colorectal cancer $4.8 billion and peptic ulcer disease $3.1 billion.

Estimated direct costs of the 17 gastrointestinal and liver diseases the researchers examined specifically were $36 billion in 1998 dollars, with estimated indirect costs of $22.8 billion, Sandler said.

Our conclusion is that GI and liver diseases exact heavy economic and social costs in the United States, he said. Understanding the prevalence and costs of these diseases is important to help set priorities to reduce the nations burden of illness.

Sandler, co-director of UNCs Center for Gastrointestinal Biology and Disease, said the study was spurred by the fact that the cost of digestive diseases nationally was not known. Good data have not been available and pooled to answer that question, he said.

We felt that if we could assemble this information, it would be useful to policy-makers, planners, health plans and other organizations, the physician said. What the

Contact: David Williamson
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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