Purpose: Asthma-related morbidity and mortality are increasing, and the financial burden imposed by this condition will substantially increase. Nevertheless, little information is available regarding the nature and magnitude of the burden due to asthma at the national level. This study was conducted to characterize the financial burden imposed by asthma in the Republic of Korea at the national level.
Methods: The overall prevalence of asthma and the costs of related medical services were determined using data from the National Health Insurance Corporation, which is responsible for the National Health Insurance scheme. Indirect costs, including expenditures on complementary and alternative medicines, and the economic impact of an impaired quality of life (intangible costs) were estimated by surveying 660 asthmatics, and these estimates were transformed to the national level using the prevalence of asthma.
Results: The prevalence of asthma and total costs related to the disease in 2004 were 4.19% and $2.04 billion, respectively. Direct costs and indirect costs contributed equally to total costs (46.9% and 53.1%, respectively). However, when intangible costs were included, total costs rose to $4.11 billion, which was equivalent to 0.44% of the national gross domestic product in 2004.
Conclusions: The results provide evidence that asthma is a major health cost factor in the Republic of Korea and that intangible costs associated with asthma are significant cost drivers.
Keywords: Asthma; cost-of-illness; direct costs; indirect costs; prevalence; quality of life.