(HealthDay News) — With an estimated 240,000 to 440,000 new cases of Lyme disease diagnosed every year, the illness costs the U.S. health care system between $712 million and $1.3 billion annually, according to a study published online Feb. 4 in PLOS ONE.
The investigators analyzed 52,795 cases of Lyme disease in patients younger than 65 who were treated with antibiotics within 30 days of a Lyme disease test order and/or Lyme disease diagnosis. These patients were compared to a control group of 263,975 people who did not have the disease.
Compared to the control group, Lyme disease patients cost the health care system $2,968 more per patient, and involved 87 percent more visits to doctors and 71 percent more visits to emergency rooms in the year after diagnosis. Lyme disease patients were nearly five times more likely to have post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome (PTLDS)-related symptoms, such as fatigue, neuropathy, arthropathy, and cognitive difficulties. In addition, they were 5.5 times more likely to be diagnosed with excessive fatigue and debility. Health care for a Lyme disease patient diagnosed with one or more PTLDS-related conditions was $3,798 more than for a Lyme disease patient with no such symptoms.
“Our study looks at the actual costs of treating patients in the year following their Lyme diagnosis,” study authors Emily Adrion, of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, said in a Hopkins news release. “Our data show that many people who have been diagnosed with Lyme disease are in fact going back to the doctor complaining of persistent symptoms, getting multiple tests and being retreated,” Adrion said. This costs the health care system about $1 billion a year, she said, “and it is clear that we need effective, cost-effective and compassionate management of these patients to improve their outcomes, even if we don’t know what to call the disease.”