Medical Claims are Double for Those with Peanut Allergy

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According to a study presented at this year’s ACAAI annual conference, the cost of medical claims for those who have been treated for peanut allergy is almost double that for those that have not.

“There’s a high burden of disease with peanut allergy,” said lead researcher Marcus Shaker, MD, from the Dartmouth Geisel School of Medicine in Lebanon, New Hampshire.

The study analyzed costs from a database of insurance claims from January 1, 2011 to October 1, 2015. All subjects were younger than 65 years of age with a mean age of 10.5 years.

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The study matched 41,675 patients that filed a peanut-related claim or received a peanut allergy diagnosis with 41,675 control subjects that filed no such claims and had no diagnosis of peanut allergy. The study matched both cohorts for age, sex, geographic region, and insurance plan type.

The results were striking. Total costs for annual healthcare were almost double for people in the allergy group than for those in the control group ($6436 vs $3493; P < .001).

Although the discrepancy in costs was not entirely related to treatment for peanut allergy, patients with a peanut allergy tend to be hospitalized more frequently than those without, and to have more comorbidities, Shaker explained.

In support of that explanation, rates of asthma were higher in the allergy group than in the control group (35.6% vs 0.2%; P < .001), as were rates of atopic dermatitis (eczema) (16.0% vs 0.4%; P < .001) and allergic rhinitis (43.1% vs 6.0%%; P < .001).

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“Peanut-allergic patients are spending a big amount at the pharmacy,” said Shaker. The cost for people in the peanut allergy group was more than double that of those in the control group ($1434 vs $661; P < .001). The average spent by peanut-allergic patients on epinephrine auto-injectors alone was $608.

Children in the allergy group were significantly more likely to visit a pediatrician than those in the control group:

Pediatrician Visits
Age Group Allergy Group, % Control Group, % P Value
0–3 years 85 79 <.001
4–11 years 79 68 <.001
12–18 years 64 50 <.001

For the allergy group, mean costs for hospitalization were $7976 and for visits to the emergency department were $1214.

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Additionally, the study found that 36% of people in the allergy group experienced an anaphylactic reaction. “Most of the literature has rates between 6% and 45%, and usually closer to 6%,” said Shaker.

Dr Shaker is optimistic that the new peanut immunotherapy treatments currently awaiting approval by the FDA will help reduce costs. “If these are approved and provided to patients, there could be significant cost-saving downstream effect,” Shaker told Medscape Medical News.

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