Stephen A. Harrison, MD, FACP, FAASLD, visiting professor of hepatology at University of Oxford and medical director at Pinnacle Clinical Research, discussed how the growing epidemic of liver disease impacts the financial solvency of the U.S. health care system in a white paper released by Echosens.
“In this white paper, we explore the growing body of data that show how nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is becoming recognized as a significant burden to patients, providers, and the overall health care system,” Harrison said in a press release. “One study concluded that the costs associated with the care for NAFLD were significantly higher than matched controls with similar metabolic profiles, even before the introduction of pharmacological treatments.”
Data from “The Economic Tsunami of Liver Disease” revealed that nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, which affects approximately 100 million Americans, costs the U.S. health care system $32 billion annually compared with the $34 billion annual costs of strokes.
For the 6.65 million adults who live with NASH in the U.S., lifetime costs for all NASH cases in 2017 were $222.6 billion and the cost of advanced NASH was $95.4 billion.
“NASH, especially advanced NASH, is associated with a high lifetime economic burden,” Harrison wrote in the paper. “In the absence of treatment, the total direct costs of illness for these patients will continue to grow, keeping in mind that these costs would be even greater if the societal costs were included.”
Along with the economic burden of liver disease, the white paper also covers the increased risk for mortality in patients with NAFLD and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, the connection between liver disease and diabetes, the impact of NAFLD on the pool of potential liver donors, the value of screening and early detection, and noninvasive identification of NAFLD and NASH using Echosens’ FibroScan.
“As part of an overall patient assessment at the point of care, noninvasive FibroScan based assessments may reduce the significant specialist referral costs and with earlier identification of potentially advancing disease, support earlier interventions to improve outcomes,” Harrison added in the press release.