Constantly rising U.S. health care costs could be reduced significantly by preventing and treating neuropathic pain conditions associated with diabetes and herpes zoster virus infections, according to research published in The Journal of Pain, the peer review publication of the American Pain Society, www.ampainsoc.org and jpain.org.
Researchers at the University of Rochester and the University of Arizona examined databases of medical and pharmacy claims at major national health plans covering some 75 million lives. The objective of the study was to estimate and compare health care costs of two peripheral neuropathic pain conditions, post herpetic neuralgia (PHN) and diabetic peripheral neuropathy (DPN). PHN causes pain following rash healing in herpes zoster, which infects 1 million people in the U.S. every year. DPN is a painful neuropathy estimated to affect up to 47 percent of diabetes patients. According to one study, some 5 million Americans are afflicted with neuropathic pain conditions, of which PHN and DPN are the most common.
The study reported that annual health care costs associated with PHN and DPN in patients of all ages range from $1,600 to $7,000 per case. The authors noted that the incidence of PHN and PDN is expected to rise as the result of an increasing older population at elevated risk for shingles and diabetes. Also, obesity in persons all ages is fueling rapid growth of diabetes cases and causing higher incidence of painful PDN.
The authors noted their results are valuable for evaluating cost benefits of new interventions for treating and preventing painful PDN and PHN, such as the herpes zoster vaccine.