The Hidden Costs Of Endometriosis
Putting a price tag on a disease isn't an easy task. Adding up the costs of doctor visits, medication, and surgery, for instance, gives one only a hint at the type of huge sums that the government and health care consumers must shell out on an annual basis for illnesses like heart disease or diabetes. Once you attempt to factor in societal impact and missed opportunities due to disease, you have a mighty difficult mathematical equation to solve.
Sometimes the equation is made difficult by the complexity of the workup and treatment for a specific ailment. A case in point is endometriosis. In endometriosis uterine tissue grows outside of the uterus on pelvic organs. The disease now affects around one in every ten U.S. women. As a gynecological disease, endometriosis has become so common that the University of California's San Francisco Medical Center has cited the ailment as a major cause for infertility in females of childbearing age. The Center's statistics state that endometriosis is responsible for 25%-50% of all cases of infertility.
You'd think that with this kind of high profile, physicians would, by now, know a great deal about the condition and have developed standard long-term management methods. But this is not so. The reason for the lack of understanding of the disease and its treatment is due to the fact that endometriosis research receives a very small piece of the government funding pie.
Many would like to see an overhaul of the way the government treats and spends money on health care issues. Meantime, private organizations devoted to specific medical issues, such as the World Endometriosis Research Foundation (WERF), have begun to push the envelope, too.
Last August, for instance, WERF gathered a group of researchers from all over the world to determine the real costs of endometriosis. The project is called EndoCost and involved the analysis of studies relating to the past and future projected costs of diagnosing and treating endometriosis. The study also took into account some indirect costs, such as absence from the workplace and mental distress. The study took 5 months to complete and EndoCost is expected to publish a report by the middle of 2010.
The EndoCost consortium believes that the results of their project will prove that endometriosis is more costly than even Crohn's disease or migraines, two quite different but better-known chronic and disabling conditions. When one tallies up health care plus loss of productivity, a previous estimate finds that the annual cost of endometriosis runs $2,801 for each patient. If we assume that the illness affects 10% of the U.S. population, the total burden comes to $22 billion! But the WERF consortium believes this figure is a gross underestimate of the true cost of the disease.