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Original Investigation
April 28, 2003

The Economic Consequences of Irritable Bowel Syndrome: A US Employer Perspective

Author Affiliations

From Analysis Group/Economics, Boston, Mass (Mss Leong, Thibeault, and Ben-Hamadi, and Dr Birnbaum); Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation, East Hanover, NJ (Mss Barghout and Frech); the Division of Gastroenterology, the Departments of Medicine and Health Services Research, Cedars-Sinai Health System, University of California, Los Angeles, UCLA School of Medicine (Dr Ofman); and Zynx Health Inc, Beverly Hills, Calif (Dr Ofman).

Arch Intern Med. 2003;163(8):929-935. doi:10.1001/archinte.163.8.929

Background  The objective of this study was to measure the direct costs of treating irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and the indirect costs in the workplace. This was accomplished through retrospective analysis of administrative claims data from a national Fortune 100 manufacturer, which includes all medical, pharmaceutical, and disability claims for the company's employees, spouses/dependents, and retirees.

Methods  Patients with IBS were identified as individuals, aged 18 to 64 years, who received a primary code for IBS or a secondary code for IBS and a primary code for constipation or abdominal pain between January 1, 1996, and December 31, 1998. Of these patients with IBS, 93.7% were matched based on age, sex, employment status, and ZIP code to a control population of beneficiaries. Direct and indirect costs for patients with IBS were compared with those of matched controls.

Results  The average total cost (direct plus indirect) per patient with IBS was $4527 in 1998 compared with $3276 for a control beneficiary (P<.001). The average physician visit costs were $524 and $345 for patients with IBS and controls, respectively (P<.001). The average outpatient care costs to the employer were $1258 and $742 for patients with IBS and controls, respectively (P<.001). Medically related work absenteeism cost the employer $901 on average per employee treated for IBS compared with $528 on average per employee without IBS (P<.001).

Conclusion  Irritable bowel syndrome is a significant financial burden on the employer that arises from an increase in direct and indirect costs compared with the control group.