Background: Although little mortality is associated with irritable bowel syndrome, curative therapy does not exist and thus the economic impact of this disorder may be considerable.
Methods: A systematic review of the literature was performed. Studies were included if their focus was irritable bowel syndrome, and direct and/or productivity (indirect) costs were reported. Two investigators abstracted the data independently.
Results: One hundred and seventy-four studies were retrieved by the search; 11 fulfilled all criteria for entry into the review. The mean direct costs of irritable bowel syndrome management were reported to be UK pound sterling90, Canadian$259 and US$619 per patient annually, with total annual direct costs related to irritable bowel syndrome of pound sterling45.6 million (UK) and $1.35 billion (USA). Direct resource consumption of all health care for irritable bowel syndrome patients ranged from US$742 to US$3166. Productivity costs ranged from US$335 to US$748, with total annual costs of $205 million estimated in the USA. Annual expenditure for all health care, in addition to expenditure limited to gastrointestinal disorders, was significantly higher in irritable bowel syndrome patients than in control populations.
Conclusions: Despite the lack of significant mortality, irritable bowel syndrome is associated with high direct and productivity costs. Irritable bowel syndrome patients consume more gastrointestinal-related and more total health care resources than non-irritable bowel syndrome controls, and sustain significantly greater productivity losses.