Objectives: Extraesophageal symptoms are common manifestations of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Lack of a definitive diagnostic or treatment standards complicate management, which often leads to multiple specialty consultations, procedures, pharmaceuticals and diagnostic tests. The aim of this study was to determine the economic burden associated with extraesophageal reflux (EER).
Methods: Direct costs of evaluation were estimated for patients referred with symptoms attributed to EER between 2007 and 2011. Medicare payment for evaluation and management and pharmaceutical prices was used to calculate first year and overall costs of evaluating and treating extraesophageal symptoms attributed to reflux.
Results: Overall, 281 patients were studied (cough (50%), hoarseness (23%), globus/post-nasal drainage (15%), asthma (9%), and sore throat (3%)). Over a median (interquartile range) of 32 (16-46) months follow-up, patients had a mean (95% confidence interval) of 10.1 (9.4-10.9) consultations with specialists and underwent 6.4 (3-9) diagnostic procedures. Overall, the mean initial year direct cost was $5,438 per patient being evaluated for EER. Medical and non-medical components contributed $5,154 and $283. Of the overall cost, 52% were attributable to the use of proton pump inhibitors. During the initial year, direct costs were 5.6 times higher than those reported for typical GERD ($971). A total of 54% of patients reported improvement of symptoms. Overall cost per improved patient was $13,700.
Conclusions: EER contributes substantially to health-care expenditures. In this cohort, the cost for initial year's evaluation and treatment of EER symptoms was quintuple that of typical GERD. Prescription costs and, in particular, proton pump inhibitors were the single greatest contributor to the cost of EER management.