July 05, 2018
1 min read

NAFLD costs U.S. health care system $32 billion annually

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Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease costs the United States health care system $32 billion annually, according to results of a study presented at Digestive Disease Week 2018 by the Intermountain Healthcare researchers.

Michael Charlton, MD
Michael Charlton

“Looking at the financial implications specifically, the results of the study also highlight the potential reduction in health care costs if treatments do become available,” Michael Charlton, MD, HCV Next Editorial Board member and transplant hepatologist from the Intermountain Transplant and Regenerative Medicine Center, said in a press release. “We currently have validated a predictive risk score that uses basic lab values and a patient’s medical history to allow us to predict which patients are at a higher risk of developing liver damage due to the disease.”

Charlton and colleagues gathered the medical records of 4,569 patients with NAFLD from 2005 to 2015, as well as data from a control group of 12,486 patients without NAFLD.

The researchers analyzed overall health care costs per patient per year in both groups. The annual economic burden of NAFLD totaled $32 billion and included the following factors:

  • inpatient hospitalization and outpatient appointments,
  • emergency department visits,
  • organ transplantation,
  • mortality,
  • medical procedures or new diagnoses, and
  • new medications or changes to existing medications.

“We are already in an era of escalating health care costs and we see what was an unrecognized and infrequent disease in the 1980s, is now a major epidemic that will further drive costs in years to come,” Richard Gilroy, MD, medical director of the hepatology and liver transplant program at Intermountain Medical Center, said in the release. “At Intermountain Healthcare, we are looking to community initiatives to approach the issue as we know that change will only come through collaborations.”

According to the press release, Charlton and colleagues plan to implement use of the predictive tool presented at DDW at the population level and continue advocation for nutritional and therapeutic intervention. – by Talitha Bennett

Disclosure: Charlton reports receiving consulting fees, research support or other financial benefits from Conatus, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Gilead, NGM-Bio and Novartis.