Care for patients with HIV remains expensive

Research Activities, May 2011, No. 369

Annual health care costs for patients with HIV tend to be high, with estimates in the late 1990s hovering around the $20,000 mark. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) researchers John A. Fleishman, Ph.D., and Fred J. Hellinger, Ph.D., along with other investigators in the HIV Research Network, report a new study with updated cost estimates, showing that costs vary with illness severity. Thus, there is no one magic number to represent the annual cost of treating HIV.

Using data from 14,691 patients from 10 sites in the HIV Research Network, the authors found that total health care costs for patients with HIV averaged $19,912 in 2006. Costs for patients with advanced HIV (median CD4 cell count of 50 cells/liter) averaged $40,678, while patients whose HIV was much less advanced (median CD4 cell count of higher than 500 cells/liter) averaged $16,614. Inpatient and emergency department costs were highest for patients with advanced HIV. A large portion of the care costs was due to the expense of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART), a multidrug regimen that delays the onset of AIDS symptoms. Although the overall cost of HAART drugs averaged $13,024 per patient, the cost for these drugs was lowest for patients with advanced HIV, coming in at an average of $10,775. In contrast, patients with the highest CD4 counts had drug costs averaging $14,430. The authors suggest that the lower drug costs for patients with more advanced HIV may be a result of drug resistance or an inability to tolerate the drugs. Additionally, the higher drug costs for patients with less advanced HIV may signal HAART's effectiveness in increasing CD4 counts.

See "Contemporary costs of HIV healthcare in the HAART era," by Kelly A. Gebo, M.D., Dr. Fleishman, Richard Conviser, Ph.D., and others in the November 2010 AIDS 24(17), pp. 2705-2715. Reprints (AHRQ Publication No. 11-R020) are available from the AHRQ Publications Clearinghouse.

Current as of May 2011
Internet Citation: Care for patients with HIV remains expensive: Research Activities, May 2011, No. 369. May 2011. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://www.ahrq.gov/news/newsletters/research-activities/may11/0511RA15.html