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Background: Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a debilitating chronic illness affecting at least 4 million people in the United States. Understanding its cost improves decisions regarding resource allocation that may be directed towards treatment and cure, and guides the evaluation of clinical and community interventions designed to reduce the burden of disease.
Methods: This research estimated direct and indirect costs of CFS and the impact on educational attainment using a population-based, case-control study between September 2004 and July 2005, Georgia, USA.
Participants completed a clinical evaluation to confirm CFS, identify other illnesses, and report on socioeconomic factors. We estimated the effect of CFS on direct medical costs (inpatient hospitalizations, provider visits, prescription medication spending, other medical supplies and services) and loss in productivity (employment and earnings) with a stratified sample (n=500) from metropolitan, urban, and rural Georgia.
We adjusted medical costs and earnings for confounders (age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, and geographic strata) using econometric models and weighted estimates to reflect response-rate adjusted sampling rates.
Individuals with CFS had mean [average] annual direct medical costs of $5,683. After adjusting for confounding factors, CFS accounted for $3,286 of these costs (p < 0.01), which were driven by increased provider visits and prescription medication use.
Nearly one-quarter of these expenses were paid directly out-of-pocket by those with CFS.
Individuals with CFS reported mean annual household income of $23,076.
After adjustment, CFS accounted for $8,554 annually in lost household earnings (p < 0.01).
Lower educational attainment accounted for 19% of the reduction in earnings associated with CFS.
Study results indicate that chronic fatigue syndrome may lead to substantial increases in healthcare costs and decreases in individual earnings.
Studies have estimated up to 2.5% of non-elderly adults may suffer from CFS. In Georgia, a state with roughly 5.5 million people age 18-59, illness could account for $452 million in total healthcare expenditures and $1.2 billion of lost productivity.
Source: Cost Effectiveness and Resource Allocation, Jan 21, 2011. DOI:10.1186/1478-7547-9-1, by Lin JS, Resch SC, Brimmer DJ, Johnson A, Kennedy S, Burstein N, Simon CJ. Chronic Viral Diseases Branch, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia; Abt Associates, Cambridge Massachusetts; Center for Health Decision Science, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. The Lewin Group, Eden Prairie, Minnesota, USA [Email: firstname.lastname@example.org]