Cost of Alzheimer’s Patients Care Seen to Climb Year Before Diagnosis

Ana de Barros, PhD avatar

by Ana de Barros, PhD |

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Results from a recent study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Public Health show that mean healthcare costs of patients with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) are significantly higher than of a similar age without AD, starting to increase one year before diagnosis and peaking six months after the disease is found.

For the study, titled “Hospital care and drug costs from five years before until two years after the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease in a Finnish nationwide cohort,” a team of researchers from the University of Eastern Finland collected data from the Finnish Medication Use and Alzheimer’s Disease Study (MEDALZ) of clinically verified AD diagnoses between 2005 and 2011. They used the data to investigate costs related to hospital care and drug treatment among 70,718 patients with AD living in their own home, from five years before until two years after diagnosis, as compared with hospital care and drug costs in an equal number of non-AD patients of similar age, region and gender.

Data on AD diagnoses was taken from the Finnish Social Insurance Institution’s Reimbursement Register, data on hospital days from the Finnish Hospital Discharge Register, and data on medication from the Finnish Social Insurance Institution’s Prescription Register. Additionally, data of medical care costs was derived from the prescription register and hospital discharge register, while costs of hospital care were calculated according to the Finnish healthcare system unit costs.

The results revealed that the differences in healthcare costs between people with and without AD started climbing between one year and five months before diagnosis, and reached a peak six months after diagnosis, with AD patients claiming €5,088 ($5447.72) in higher healthcare costs per person-year than those without AD. Up to two years post-diagnosis, AD patients’ medical costs were roughly double those without AD. Hospital care costs weighted the most (between 78%–84%) in both groups, while drug costs for AD patients had a minor role in the overall increase among this group, with anti-dementia drugs taking the largest share.

Five years before diagnosis, AD patients spent on average 1.4 days hospitalized per person-year than non-AD patients, whereas two years after diagnosis they stayed as many as 14.2 more days in a hospital.

“Further research is needed to examine the causes of hospitalization periods and whether hospital care costs could be decreased by earlier diagnosis or by better outpatient treatment,” the authors conclude in their report.