Background: Only limited data exist on the costs of genital herpes (GH) in the USA. We estimated the economic burden of GH in the USA using two different costing approaches.
Methods: The first approach was a cross-sectional survey of a sample of primary and secondary care physicians, analyzing health care resource utilization. The second approach was based on the analysis of a large administrative claims data set. Both approaches were used to generate the number of patients with symptomatic GH seeking medical treatment, the average medical expenditures and estimated national costs. Costs were valued from a societal and a third party payer's perspective in 1996 US dollars.
Results: In the cross-sectional study, based on an estimated 3.1 million symptomatic episodes per year in the USA, the annual direct medical costs were estimated at a maximum of $984 million. Of these costs, 49.7% were caused by drug expenditures, 47.7% by outpatient medical care and 2.6% by hospital costs. Indirect costs accounted for further $214 million. The analysis of 1,565 GH cases from the claims database yielded a minimum national estimate of $283 million direct medical costs.
Conclusions: GH appears to be an important public health problem from the health economic point of view. The observed difference in direct medical costs may be explained with the influence of compliance to treatment and possible undersampling of subpopulations in the claims data set. The present study demonstrates the validity of using different approaches in estimating the economic burden of a specific disease to the health care system.