Objective: This study attempted to determine the total direct costs derived from the management of chronic bronchitis and COPD in an ambulatory setting through a prospective, 1-year, follow-up study.
Method: A total of 1,510 patients with chronic bronchitis and COPD were recruited from 268 general practices located throughout Spain. Patients were followed up for 1 year. All direct medical costs incurred by the cohort and related to their respiratory disease were quantified. Costs were calculated for patients with confirmed COPD according to the degree of severity of airflow obstruction.
Results: The global mean direct yearly cost of chronic bronchitis and COPD was $1,876. The cost generated by patients with COPD was $1,760, but the cost of severe COPD ($2,911) was almost double that of mild COPD ($1,484). Hospitalization costs represented 43.8% of costs, drug acquisition costs were 40.8%, and clinic visits and diagnostic tests represented only 15.4% of costs.
Conclusion: This is the first prospective follow-up study on a large cohort of patients with chronic bronchitis and COPD aimed at quantifying direct medical costs under usual clinical practice in the community. Costs of chronic bronchitis and COPD were almost twofold those reported for asthma. Patterns of COPD management in the community differ from those recommended in guidelines. COPD represents a great health-care burden in developed countries, and aging of the population and continuing smoking habits predict that it will continue to do so in the future.