The economic impact of Marfan syndrome: a non-experimental, retrospective, population-based matched cohort study

Orphanet J Rare Dis. 2014 Jun 23;9:90. doi: 10.1186/1750-1172-9-90.


Background: Marfan syndrome is a rare disease of the connective tissues, affecting multiple organ systems. Elevated morbidity and mortality in these patients raises the issue of costs for sickness funds and society. To date, there has been no study analysing the costs of Marfan syndrome from a sickness fund and societal perspective.

Objective: To estimate excess health resource utilisation, direct (non-)medical and indirect costs attributable to Marfan syndrome from a healthcare payer and a societal perspective in Germany in 2008.

Methods: A retrospective matched cohort study design is applied, using claims data. For isolating the causal effect of Marfan syndrome on excess costs, a genetic matching algorithm was used to reduce differences in observable characteristics between Marfan syndrome patients and the control group. 892 patients diagnosed with Marfan syndrome (ICD-10 Q87.4) were matched from a pool of 26,645 control individuals. After matching, we compared health resource utilisation and costs.

Results: From the sickness fund perspective, an average Marfan syndrome patient generates excess annual costs of €2496 compared with a control individual. From the societal perspective, excess annual costs amount to €15,728. For the sickness fund, the strongest cost drivers are inpatient treatment and care by non-physicians. From the sickness fund perspective, the third (25-41 years) and first (0-16 years) age quartiles reveal the greatest surplus in total costs. Marfan syndrome patients have 39% more physician contacts, a 153% longer average length of hospital stay, 119% more inpatient stays, 33% more prescriptions, 236% more medical imaging and 20% higher average prescription costs than control individuals. Depending on the prevalence, the economic impact from the sickness fund perspective ranges between €24.0 million and €61.4 million, whereas the societal economic impact extends from €151.3 million to €386.9 million.

Conclusions: Relative to its low frequency, Marfan syndrome requires high healthcare expenditure. Not only the high costs of Marfan syndrome but also its burden on patients' lives call for more awareness from policy-makers, physicians and clinical researchers. Consequently, the diagnosis and treatment of Marfan syndrome should begin as soon as possible in order to prevent disease complications, early mortality and substantial healthcare expenditure.

MeSH terms

  • Cohort Studies
  • Humans
  • Marfan Syndrome / economics*
  • Retrospective Studies