The Impact of Inflammatory Bowel Disease in Canada 2018: Direct Costs and Health Services Utilization

M Ellen Kuenzig, Eric I Benchimol, Lawrence Lee, Laura E Targownik, Harminder Singh, Gilaad G Kaplan, Charles N Bernstein, Alain Bitton, Geoffrey C Nguyen, Kate Lee, Jane Cooke-Lauder, Sanjay K Murthy
Journal of the Canadian Association of Gastroenterology 2019, 2 (Suppl 1): S17-S33

Direct health care costs of illness reflect the costs of medically necessary services and treatments paid for by public and private payers, including hospital-based care, outpatient physician consultations, prescription medications, diagnostic testing, complex continuing care, and home care. The costs of caring for persons with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) have been rising well above inflation over the past fifteen years in Canada, largely due to the introduction and penetration of expensive biologic therapies. Changing paradigms of care toward frequent patient monitoring and achievement of stricter endpoints for disease control have also increased health services utilization and costs among IBD patients. While the frequency and costs of surgeries and hospitalizations have declined slightly in parallel with increased biologic use (due to better overall disease control), the direct medical costs of care for IBD patients are largely dominated by prescription drug costs. Introduction and penetration of biosimilar agents (at a markedly lower price point than the originator drugs) and increasing gastroenterologist involvement in the care of IBD patients may help to balance rising health care costs while improving health outcomes and quality of life for IBD patients. Ultimately, however, the predicted rise in the prevalence of IBD over the next decade, combined with increasing use of expensive biologic therapies, will likely dictate a continued rise in the direct costs of IBD patient care in Canada for years to come. In 2018, direct health care costs of IBD are estimated to be at least $1 billion Canadian dollars (CAD) and possibly higher than $2 billion CAD.

Highlights: 1. In Canada, the direct cost of caring for people living with IBD is estimated in 2018 to be close to $1.28 billion (roughly $4731 per person with IBD).2. The costs of caring for people living with IBD are dominated by prescription drugs, followed by hospitalization costs. There has been a shift away from hospitalizations and toward pharmaceuticals as the predominant driver of direct health care costs in IBD patients, due to the introduction and widespread use of expensive biologic therapies.3. The rates of hospitalizations and major abdominal surgeries have been declining in IBD patients in Canada over the past two decades, possibly due to penetration of biologic therapies and advances in patient management paradigms.4. Inflammatory bowel disease patients cared for by gastroenterologists have better outcomes, including lower risks of surgery and hospitalization. Canadians who live in rural and underserviced areas are less likely to receive gastroenterologist care, potentially due to care preferences or poorer access, which may result in poorer long-term outcomes.5. Introduction of biosimilar agents at a lower price point than originator biologic therapies, increased gastroenterologist care of IBD patients, and improvements in IBD care paradigms may balance overall treatment costs while improving health outcomes and quality of life for IBD patients. However, in the long-term, direct costs of care may continue to increase, dictated by a rising IBD prevalence and increasing use of biologic therapies.

Key Summary Points: 1. The costs of health care for patients with IBD are more than double those without IBD.2. Prescription drug use accounts for 42% of total direct costs in IBD patients, and costs to treat IBD continue to rise due to increased use of existing biologic therapies and the introduction of several new biologic therapies in recent years.3. In Manitoba, the mean health care utilization and medication costs for persons with IBD in the year before beginning anti-TNF therapy was $10,206 and increased to $44,786 in the first year of therapy.4. Biosimilar agents to anti-TNF drugs are now entering the Canadian marketplace and may result in cost savings in patients using biologic agents to treat their IBD.5. Timely gastroenterologist care has been associated with reduced risks of requiring surgery and emergency care among ambulatory IBD patients and a reduced risk of death among hospitalized patients with ulcerative colitis.6. Inflammatory bowel disease care provided by gastroenterologists has increased over the past two decades. Even then, the average time from symptom onset to IBD diagnosis exceeds six months, and only one-third of IBD patients receive continuing care with a gastroenterologist during the first five years following diagnosis.7. Senior (age ≥65), rural-dwelling, and non-immigrant IBD patients have less frequent gastroenterologist care than other groups.8. About one in five adults with Crohn's disease and one in eight adults with ulcerative colitis are hospitalized in Ontario every year. Hospitalizations are most common during the first year following IBD diagnosis. Children with IBD (age <18) have the highest rates of hospitalizations and hospital re-admissions.9. In Canada, 16% of patients hospitalized for Crohn's disease undergo an intestinal resection, and 11% of patients hospitalized for ulcerative colitis undergo a colectomy during their initial hospitalization. Rates of intestinal resection and colectomy are declining in Canada in persons with Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, respectively.10. In Ontario, one-third of adult-onset Crohn's disease patients undergo intestinal resection within ten years of diagnosis. Among Canadian children with Crohn's disease, approximately one in fifteen children will require intestinal surgery within the first year of diagnosis, and up to one-third will require surgery within ten years of diagnosis.11. In Ontario, the ten-year colectomy risk following ulcerative colitis diagnosis is 13.3% among young persons and adults and 18.5% among individuals with senior-onset ulcerative colitis. In children with ulcerative colitis, the risk of colectomy is 4.8% to 6% in the first year following diagnosis and increases to 15% to 17% by ten years.

Gaps in Knowledge and Future Directions: 1. Forecasting models are necessary to predict the rising costs attributable to biologics associated with increasing prevalence of IBD, more frequent use of these medications, and the introduction of newer agents.2. Research into ways to minimize the escalating costs associated with increasing use of biologic therapies to treat IBD (and other chronic diseases) is necessary to ensure sustainability of our publicly funded health care system. Biosimilars offer an opportunity to drive down the cost of biologic therapies, and future research should assess the uptake of biosimilars as new biosimilars are introduced into the marketplace.3. Cost-utility models and budget impact analyses that integrate changes in direct costs (i.e., reduced hospitalizations and increased pharmaceutical costs) with indirect cost savings from improved quality of life are necessary to inform policy decisions.4. Research into ways to reduce IBD hospitalizations further through targeted outpatient interventions is equally important for health system sustainability and to improve patient quality of life.5. Research into reasons for reduced gastroenterologist care among rural and underserviced IBD residents would allow targeted interventions to improve specialist care and thereby improve patient health outcomes and quality of life.

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