The economic consequences of irritable bowel syndrome: a US employer perspective

Stephanie A Leong, Victoria Barghout, Howard G Birnbaum, Crystal E Thibeault, Rym Ben-Hamadi, Feride Frech, Joshua J Ofman
Archives of Internal Medicine 2003 April 28, 163 (8): 929-35

BACKGROUND: The objective of this study was to measure the direct costs of treating irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and the indirect costs in the workplace. This was accomplished through retrospective analysis of administrative claims data from a national Fortune 100 manufacturer, which includes all medical, pharmaceutical, and disability claims for the company's employees, spouses/dependents, and retirees.

METHODS: Patients with IBS were identified as individuals, aged 18 to 64 years, who received a primary code for IBS or a secondary code for IBS and a primary code for constipation or abdominal pain between January 1, 1996, and December 31, 1998. Of these patients with IBS, 93.7% were matched based on age, sex, employment status, and ZIP code to a control population of beneficiaries. Direct and indirect costs for patients with IBS were compared with those of matched controls.

RESULTS: The average total cost (direct plus indirect) per patient with IBS was 4527 dollars in 1998 compared with 3276 dollars for a control beneficiary (P<.001). The average physician visit costs were 524 dollars and 345 dollars for patients with IBS and controls, respectively (P<.001). The average outpatient care costs to the employer were 1258 dollars and 742 dollars for patients with IBS and controls, respectively (P<.001). Medically related work absenteeism cost the employer 901 dollars on average per employee treated for IBS compared with 528 dollars on average per employee without IBS (P<.001).

CONCLUSION: Irritable bowel syndrome is a significant financial burden on the employer that arises from an increase in direct and indirect costs compared with the control group.

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