How expensive is inflammatory bowel disease? A critical analysis

World J Gastroenterol. 2008 Nov 21;14(43):6641-7. doi: 10.3748/wjg.14.6641.


Economic analysis of chronic diseases is required for proper allocation of resources and understanding cost-effectiveness studies of new therapies. Studies on health care cost of ulcerative colitis (UC) and Crohn's disease (CD) are reviewed here. These studies were carried out in various countries with disparate health care systems. In the United States, data were often modeled or retrieved from large insurance schemes. Surgery and in-patient hospitalization accounted for over half the outlay on UC and CD. Fistulous disease in CD and parenteral nutrition were very costly. In Canada, overall charges were lower than in the United States, but there too, surgical costs were relatively high. In European studies, economic data were abstracted directly from patients' files. One pan-European study examined the outlay on UC and CD in a community-based prospective inception cohort followed for 10 years. Overall costs in Europe were lower than in the United States. Surgery, hospitalization, year of follow-up, disease phenotype in CD and ASCA-positivity impacted significantly on costs. In all studies, the cost data were right skewed, aminosalicylates were expensive drugs, and biological agents the most expensive; moreover indirect costs were not calculated. Infliximab raised costs considerably in CD, but there were no long-term follow-up studies, so that the cost-benefit of biological agents remains unknown. In conclusion, costs of managing UC and CD vary by country, surgery, genotype and several other factors. The most important question for further research is whether the biological therapies are cost-effective in the long-term.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / economics
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / therapeutic use
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / economics
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / therapeutic use
  • Colitis, Ulcerative / economics
  • Colitis, Ulcerative / genetics
  • Colitis, Ulcerative / therapy
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Crohn Disease / economics
  • Crohn Disease / genetics
  • Crohn Disease / therapy
  • Health Care Costs / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / economics*
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / genetics
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / therapy*
  • Infliximab


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Infliximab