Rotavirus Vaccine Leads to Lower Doctor Visits and Health Care Costs

Vaccinating infants against rotavirus has resulted in dramatic decreases in health care use and treatment costs for diarrhea–related illness in U.S. infants and young children, according to a new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The study is published in the current issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

“This is good news for parents and our health system overall,” said Dr. Umesh Parashar, medical epidemiologist and team leader for the Viral Gastroenteritis Team in CDC′s Division of Viral Diseases. “Rotavirus vaccine is one of the most effective ways to prevent severe diarrhea–related illness in young children and keep them healthy.”

Rotavirus is a major cause of severe diarrhea in infants and young children in the United States. Before vaccines were introduced in 2006, rotavirus was responsible for about 400,000 visits to doctor′s offices, 200,000 emergency room visits, 55,000 to 70,000 hospitalizations, and 20 to 60 deaths each year in children under 5 years old.

RotaTeq and Rotarix, the two U.S. licensed rotavirus vaccines, were 85 to 98 percent effective at preventing severe rotavirus disease in clinical trials in middle and high income countries, including the United States.

This new study used data from a large U.S. insurance database for 2001 to 2009 to assess rotavirus vaccine coverage and its impact on health care use and treatment costs for diarrhea–related illness in children under 5 years old. The study examined direct benefits to vaccinated children and indirect protective benefits to unvaccinated children. National declines in health care use and treatment costs were estimated by applying the declines seen in this study to children under 5 years old in the U.S population.

By the end of 2008, 73 percent of children under 1 year of age, 64 percent of 1–year–olds, and 8 percent of 2– to–4–year–olds had received at least one dose of rotavirus vaccine. Rotavirus–related hospitalizations decreased substantially compared with pre–vaccine levels in children under 5 years old—75 percent decline for 2007–2008 and 60 percent decline for 2008–2009.

Vaccinated children had 44 to 58 percent fewer diarrhea–related hospitalizations and 37 to 48 percent fewer emergency room visits for diarrhea than unvaccinated children during the 2008 and 2009 rotavirus seasons (January to June). Even in unvaccinated children, there were substantial declines in health care use during the 2008 rotavirus season compared with pre–vaccine levels—showing indirect protective benefits.

The study estimated that about 65,000 hospitalizations of children under 5 years old from 2007 to 2009 were averted nationally with a health care cost savings of about $278 million.

“This study provides more evidence that vaccinating against rotavirus substantially reduces suffering and health care costs for this common childhood illness,” said Dr. Mark Pallansch, director of CDC′s Division of Viral Diseases. “As more children get vaccinated against rotavirus, we expect to see even greater reductions in disease among all age groups.”

Source: CDC

Flu Prevention for Children and Teens – Report

Although children and teenagers rarely die from flu–related causes, many of the deaths could have been prevented if the children had been vaccinated against the flu, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The study reports 115 influenza–associated deaths of people younger than 18, from September 2010 through August 2011 and highlights the importance of both annual vaccination and rapid antiviral treatment.

“It′s vital that children get vaccinated,” said Dr. Lyn Finelli, chief of the CDC′s Surveillance and Outbreak Response Team. “We know the flu vaccine isn′t 100 percent effective, especially not in children with high risk medical conditions. That′s why it′s essential that these two medical tools be fully utilized. Vaccinate first; then use influenza antiviral drugs as a second line of defense against the flu. Right now we aren′t fully using the medical tools at our disposal to prevent flu illnesses and deaths in children.”

The study in CDC′s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report provides details on the deaths. Since 2004, states have been required to report influenza-associated deaths in children and teenagers, giving the CDC a chance to look closely at factors that can increase risk.

Among the most notable findings was the infrequent use of the most important influenza prevention measure – vaccination. Despite a recommendation for vaccination of all children 6 months of age and older having been in place since 2008, only 23 percent of the 74 children older than six months with a known vaccination history had received their flu vaccine last season.

While many people believe that healthy children can withstand a bout of flu, this is not always the case. About half of the children who died last season were previously healthy and did not have a medical condition that would put them at risk for flu complications. However, the report underscores the fact that young age in itself is a risk factor. The report identified that 46 percent of the children who died were younger than 5 years and 29 percent were younger than 2 years.

The other half of the children who died did have a medical condition that predisposed them to being at greater risk of flu complications. Of 57 children with a medical condition, 54 percent had a neurological disorder, 30 percent had pulmonary disease, 25 percent had a chromosome or genetic disorder and 19 percent had congenital heart disease or other cardiac disease.

The report also identified issues with the use of antiviral drugs, which provide effective treatment for influenza. Of the 94 children who died in a hospital or emergency department, only 50 percent were prescribed antiviral drugs. Since the 2009 H1N1 pandemic especially, CDC has recommended immediate treatment with influenza antiviral medications in severely ill patients with suspected flu.

Another report in the Sept. 16 MMWR provides a summary of influenza activity from mid–May to the beginning of September. “If trends in that report continue,” Finelli says, “we should have a vaccine that will offer good protection against the viruses we expect will circulate this season.”

This season′s influenza vaccine protects against three influenza viruses, the 2009 influenza A (H1N1) virus, an influenza A (H3N2) virus, and an influenza B virus. These are the same three flu virus strains that were circulating in 2010–2011 – just the eighth time since 1969 this phenomenon has occurred. Moreover, it is important to note that vaccine immunity wanes over time so CDC is recommending that everyone get vaccinated this season, even if they got vaccinated last season, in order to be optimally protected.

Source: CDC

Lung Cancer Rates on the Decline

The rates of new lung cancer cases in the United States dropped among men in 35 states and among women in 6 states between 1999 and 2008 Among women, lung cancer incidence decreased nationwide between 2006 and 2008, after increasing steadily for decades.

The decrease in lung cancer cases corresponds closely with smoking patterns across the nation. In the West, where smoking prevalence is lower among men and women than in other regions, lung cancer incidence is decreasing faster. Studies show declines in lung cancer rates can be seen as soon as five years after smoking rates decline.

The report also noted that states that make greater investments in effective tobacco control strategies see larger reductions in smoking; and the longer they invest, the greater the savings in smoking–related health care costs. Such strategies include higher tobacco prices, hard–hitting media campaigns, 100 percent smoke-free policies, and easily accessible quitting treatments and services for those who want to quit.

“Although lung cancer among men and women has decreased over the past few years,” said CDC Director Thomas R. Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. “too many people continue to get sick and die from lung cancers, most of which are caused by smoking.  The more we invest in proven tobacco control efforts, the fewer people will die from lung cancer.”

Lung cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer that affects both men and women, and is the leading cause of cancer death in the United States. Cigarette smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke cause most lung cancer deaths in the United States. To further reduce lung cancer incidence, intensified efforts to reduce smoking are needed.

For this report, researchers analyzed lung cancer data from CDC′s National Program of Cancer Registries and the National Cancer Institute′s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program. They estimated smoking behavior by state using the CDC′s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System.

Study findings include:

  • Among men, lung cancer rates continued to decrease nationwide.
  • From 1999 to 2008 lung cancer rates among men decreased in 35 states and remained stable in nine states (change could not be assessed in six states and the District of Columbia).
  • States with the lowest lung cancer incidence among men were clustered in the West.
  • After increasing for years, lung cancer rates among women decreased nationwide between 2006 and 2008.
  • Lung cancer rates decreased between 1999 and 2008 among women in California, Florida, Nevada, Oregon, Texas, and Washington.
  • Lung cancer rates among women remained stable in 24 states, and increased slightly in 14 states (change could not be assessed in six states and the District of Columbia).

Source: CDC

Asthma Rates in U.S. Rising

People diagnosed with asthma in the United States grew by 4.3 million between 2001 and 2009, with nearly 1 in 12 Americans diagnosed with asthma. In addition to increased diagnoses, asthma costs grew from about $53 billion in 2002 to about $56 billion in 2007, about a 6 percent increase. The explanation for the growth in asthma rates is unknown.

Asthma is a lifelong disease that causes wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness, and coughing, though people with asthma can control symptoms and prevent asthma attacks by avoiding things that can set off an asthma attacks, and correctly using prescribed medicine, like inhaled corticosteroids. The report highlights the benefits of essential asthma education and services that reduce the impact of these triggers, but most often these benefits are not covered by health insurers.

“Despite the fact that outdoor air quality has improved, we’ve reduced two common asthma triggers—secondhand smoke and smoking in general—asthma is increasing,” said Paul Garbe, D.V.M., M.P.H, chief of CDC’s Air Pollution and Respiratory Health Branch. “While we don’t know the cause of the increase, our top priority is getting people to manage their symptoms better.”

Asthma triggers are usually environmental and can be found at school, work, home, outdoors, and elsewhere and can include tobacco smoke, mold, outdoor air pollution, and infections linked to influenza, cold-like symptoms, and other viruses.

Asthma diagnoses increased among all demographic groups between 2001 and 2009, though a higher percentage of children reported having asthma than adults (9.6 percent compared to 7.7 percent in 2009), Diagnoses were especially high among boys (11.3 percent). The greatest rise in asthma rates was among black children (almost a 50 percent increase) from 2001 through 2009. Seventeen percent of non-Hispanic black children had asthma in 2009, the highest rate among racial/ethnic groups.

Annual asthma costs in the United States were $3,300 per person with asthma from 2002 to 2007 in medical expenses. About 2 in 5 uninsured and 1 in 9 insured people with asthma could not afford their prescription medication.

“Asthma is a serious, lifelong disease that unfortunately kills thousands of people each year and adds billions to our nation’s health care costs,” said CDC Director Thomas R. Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. “We have to do a better job educating people about managing their symptoms and how to correctly use medicines to control asthma so they can live longer more productive lives while saving health care costs.”

This report coincides with World Asthma Day, an annual event sponsored by the Global Initiative for Asthma. This year’s theme is “You Can Control Your Asthma.” Reducing asthma attacks and the human and economic costs of asthma are key priorities for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the focus of a collaborative effort involving many parts of HHS. In support of this effort CDC recommends:

  • Improving indoor air quality for people with asthma through measures such as smoke-free air laws and policies, healthy schools and workplaces.
  • Teach patients how to avoid asthma triggers such as tobacco smoke, mold, pet dander, and outdoor air pollution.
  • Encouraging clinicians to prescribe inhaled corticosteroids for all patients with persistent asthma and to use a written asthma action plan to teach patients how manage their symptoms.
  • Promoting measures that prevent asthma attacks such as increasing access to corticosteroids and other prescribed medicines.
  • Encourage home environmental assessments and educational sessions conducted by clinicians, health educators, and other health professionals both within and outside of the clinical setting.

The figures were reported in Vital Signs, released today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Source: CDC

Medical Costs for Youth With Diabetes 6x Higher

Young people with diabetes face substantially higher medical costs than children and teens without the disease, according to a recent article in the May issue of the journal Diabetes Care. The study found annual medical expenses for youth with diabetes are $9,061, compared to $1,468 for youth without the disease.

Much of the extra medical costs come from prescription drugs and outpatient care. Young people with the highest medical costs were treated with insulin, and included all those with type 1 diabetes and some with type 2 diabetes. People with type 1 diabetes cannot make insulin anymore and must receive insulin treatment. Some people with type 2 diabetes also are treated with insulin, because their bodies do not produce enough to control blood glucose (sugar).

Children and adolescents who received insulin treatment had annual medical costs of $9,333, compared to $5,683 for those who did not receive insulin, but did take oral medications to control blood glucose.

“Young people with diabetes face medical costs that are six times higher than their peers without diabetes,” said Ann Albright, Ph.D., R.D., director of CDC’s Division of Diabetes Translation. “Most youth with diabetes need insulin to survive and the medical costs for young people on insulin were almost 65 percent higher than for those who did not require insulin to treat their diabetes.”

The study examined medical costs for children and teens aged 19 years or younger who were covered by employer-sponsored private health insurance plans in 2007, using the MarketScan Commercial Claims and Encounters Database. The estimates were based on administrative claim data from nearly 50,000 youth, including 8,226 with diabetes.

Medical costs for people with diabetes, the vast majority of whom are adults, are 2.3 times higher than costs for those without diabetes, according to CDC’s National Diabetes Fact Sheet, 2011. Authors of the Diabetes Care study suggest that the difference in medical costs associated with diabetes may be greater for youth than for adults because of higher medication expenses, visits to specialists and medical supplies such as insulin syringes and glucose testing strips.

Among youth with diabetes, 92 percent were on insulin, compared to 26 percent of adults with diabetes. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas that helps convert blood glucose into energy. Without adequate insulin, blood glucose levels rise and can eventually lead to serious health complications, including heart disease, kidney failure, blindness, nerve damage and amputation of feet and legs.

Type 1 diabetes develops when the body’s immune system destroys insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. Risk factors may be genetic or environmental. There is no known way to prevent type 1 diabetes.

In type 2 diabetes, the body no longer handles insulin properly and gradually loses the ability to produce it. Risk factors include obesity, older age, family history, physical inactivity, history of diabetes while pregnant, and race/ethnicity. Type 2 diabetes is extremely rare in children younger than 10 years. Although type 2 diabetes is infrequent in children and teens aged 10 to 19 years, rates are higher in this group compared to younger children, with higher rates among minorities.

Source: CDC; Diabetes Care, May 2011