Background: The cost of exacerbations in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) has not been well studied. The aim of this study was to identify and quantify the (average) cost of moderate and severe exacerbations (ME and SE, respectively) from a Canadian perspective.
Methods: Resources used during ME and SE were identified in a year long prospective, observational study (Resource Utilization Study In COPD (RUSIC)). The units of analysis were ME and SE. Unit costs (2006$CAN), based on provincial, hospital and published sources, were applied to resources. The overall cost per ME and SE were calculated. The population burden of exacerbations was also calculated.
Results: Among study participants (N=609, aged 68.6+/-9.4 years, 58.3% male) there were 790 exacerbations: 639 (80.9%) MEs and 151 (19.1%) SEs. Of the 790 exacerbations, 618 (78.2%), 245 (31.0%) and 151 (19.1%) included a visit to an outpatient clinic, emergency department (ED) or hospital, respectively. For ME, 85.9% and 13.1% involved visits to GPs and respirologists, respectively. Pharmacologic treatment changes in the outpatient setting involved antibiotics (63.1%) and corticosteroids (34.7%). The overall mean costs for outpatient and ED services for MEs were $126 (N=574) and $515 (N=105), respectively. The average overall cost of a ME was $641. For SEs, the average hospital stay was 10.0 days. The overall mean costs of outpatient, ED and hospitalization services for SE were $114 (N=44), $774 (N=140) and $8669 (N=151), respectively. The average overall cost of a SE was $9557.
Conclusion: The economic burden associated with MEs and especially SEs, in Canada, is considerable and likely has a substantial impact on healthcare costs. The overall burden of exacerbations has been estimated in the range of $646 million to $736 million per annum.