A National Asthma Programme was undertaken in Finland from 1994 to 2004 to improve asthma care and prevent an increase in costs. The main goal was to lessen the burden of asthma to individuals and society.
The action programme focused on implementation of new knowledge, especially for primary care. The main premise underpinning the campaign was that asthma is an inflammatory disease and requires anti-inflammatory treatment from the outset. The key for implementation was an effective network of asthma-responsible professionals and development of a post hoc evaluation strategy. In 1997 Finnish pharmacies were included in the Pharmacy Programme and in 2002 a Childhood Asthma mini-Programme was launched.
The incidence of asthma is still increasing, but the burden of asthma has decreased considerably. The number of hospital days has fallen by 54% from 110 000 in 1993 to 51 000 in 2003, 69% in relation to the number of asthmatics (n = 135 363 and 207 757, respectively), with the trend still downwards. In 1993, 7212 patients of working age (9% of 80 133 asthmatics) received a disability pension from the Social Insurance Institution compared with 1741 in 2003 (1.5% of 116 067 asthmatics). The absolute decrease was 76%, and 83% in relation to the number of asthmatics. The increase in the cost of asthma (compensation for disability, drugs, hospital care, and outpatient doctor visits) ended: in 1993 the costs were 218 million euro which had fallen to 213.5 million euro in 2003. Costs per patient per year have decreased 36% (from 1611 euro to 1031 euro).
It is possible to reduce the morbidity of asthma and its impact on individuals as well as on society. Improvements would have taken place without the programme, but not of this magnitude.
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Using Ontario healthcare administrative databases, over 228,000 children aged 0 to 9 years were identified as having asthma between 1994 and 1998 and followed until they turned 10 years old or the end of the study. The prevalence of childhood asthma increased by 35% during the study period. These children had a higher healthcare utilization and cost over $100 more per child per year than the general population, and contributed to over one third of the total Ontario Health Insurance Plan expenditures. Findings of this study revealed an enormous burden of illness to children with asthma and the healthcare system.
The Finnish National Asthma Program 1994-2004 markedly improved asthma care in the 1990s. We evaluated the changes in costs during 26 years from 1987 to 2013. Direct and indirect costs were calculated by using data from national registries. Costs from both the societal and patient perspectives were included. The costs were based on patients with persistent, physician-diagnosed asthma verified by lung function measurements. We constructed minimum and maximum scenarios to assess the effect of improved asthma care on total costs. The number of patients with persistent asthma in the national drug reimbursement register increased from 83,000 to 247,583. Improved asthma control reduced health care use and disability, resulting in major cost savings. Despite a 3-fold increase in patients, the total costs decreased by 14%, from €222 million to €191 million. Costs for medication and primary care visits increased, but overall annual costs per patient decreased by 72%, from €2656 to €749. The theoretical total cost savings for 2013, comparing actual with predicted costs, were between €120 and €475 million, depending on the scenario used. The Finnish Asthma Program resulted in significant cost savings at both the societal and patient levels during a 26-year period.
Patients with severe uncontrolled asthma may receive oral corticosteroid (OCS) treatment regularly. The present study investigated the health care resource utilization and cost in regularly OCS treated Swedish asthma patients.
Primary care medical records data were linked to data from Swedish national health registries. Patients =18 years with a drug claim for obstructive pulmonary diseases during 2007-2009 (index date) and a prior asthma diagnosis, were classified by their OCS claims during the 12-months' post index period: regular OCS equals =5 mg per day; periodic OCS less than 5 mg per day; or non-OCS users. Cost of asthma- and OCS-morbidity-related health care resource utilization were calculated.
A total of 15,437 asthma patients (mean age 47.8, female 62.6%), whereof 223 (1.44%) were regular OCS users, 3054 (19.7%) were periodic, and 12,160 (78.7%) were non-OCS users. Regular OCS users were older and more often females, had lower lung function, greater eosinophil count and more co-morbidities at baseline compared with the other groups. Age-adjusted annual total health care cost was three-times greater in the regular OCS group (€5615) compared with the non-OCS users (€1980) and twice as high as in the periodic OCS group (€2948). The major cost driver in the non-OCS and periodic OCS groups were primary care consultations, whereas inpatient costs were the major cost driver in the regular OCS group. The asthma related costs represented 10-12% of the total cost in all three groups.
In this real-life asthma study in Sweden, the total yearly cost of health care resource utilization for a regular OCS user was three times greater than for a patient with no OCS use, indicating substantial economic and health care burden for asthma patients on regular oral steroid treatment.
Manitoba has a universally accessible health-care system that records physician contacts and hospitalizations in such a way that they can be ascribed to individuals. We examined the prevalence of physician-diagnosed asthma, bronchitis, and airways obstruction (total respiratory morbidity [TRM]) in Winnipeg in 1988 and 1992, using place of residence to divide people into quintiles according to average family income. Physician office visits, hospitalizations, and consultation referrals were each examined. Three age groups: 0 to 14 yr, 15 to 34 yr, and > or = 35 yr were studied. The prevalence of TRM was greater in low- than in high-income quintiles. Asthma prevalence was unrelated to income in the younger age groups; in the older group asthma was more common in low-income groups, but was less strongly related to income than was TRM. Asthma prevalence increased over the years studied, but the increase was not related to income level. There was some evidence of income-related diagnostic bias in that low-income patients were more likely to be labeled with a related diagnosis in addition to asthma than were high-income patients. Low-income patients had more physician contacts than did high-income patients. In terms of physician office visits, care continuity did not differ among income quintiles. Low-income quintiles had more hospitalizations than did high-income quintiles, and differences were larger than could be accounted for by diagnostic bias; asthma was probably more severe in low-income quintiles. High-income quintiles had more consultation referrals than did low-income quintiles.