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Health economy: How much does it cost for FGIDs and their symptoms in infants

A family can only be as happy as its unhappiest child.

About 1 in every 2 infants experiences at least one FGID (functional gastrointestinal disorder) or its related symptoms within the first year after birth.

FGIDs are defined as variable combinations of chronic or recurrent gastrointestinal signs and symptoms without obvious structural or biochemical alterations. The most common FGIDs in infants are regurgitation, infantile colic, and functional constipation.

Although mostly considered benign, FGIDs are a source of concern and frustration for families.

Treatment algorithms have been developed for the management of FGIDs, with parental support, reassurance and nutritional advice recommended in the first line. However, some infants are being medicated unnecessarily, which suggests a discrepancy between treatment recommendations and their implementation. This results in substantial expenses incurred by third-party payers and parents.

Researchers from UK, Argentina, USA, United Arab Emirates, Poland, The Netherlands and Singapore conducted a study by using England as an example to calculate the potential costs of treating FGIDs in infants to third-party payers and to parents. FGID-treatment related data from 2014-2015 were collected from publicly available sources.

The study found that the annual total cost of treating FGIDs in infants was estimated to be at least £72.3 million. £49.1 million was attributed to health system expenditures and £23.2 million to parents through the purchase of over-the-counter remedies and anti-regurgitation formulas.

The data on the cost of alternative therapies, inpatient treatments, diagnostic tests, and parents’ time off work were not available for calculation. The actual cost is thus likely to be significantly higher.

“This is the first study on the costs of regurgitation, infantile colic, and constipation in infants. The high number of healthcare professional consultations and over-the-counter remedy purchases indicate the stress of parents,”

said Thomas Ludwig, Principal Scientist Paediatric Gastroenterology at Nutricia Research. “Issues of spitting, crying, and pooping are very frequent in infants, and cause a relevant financial burden to families and health care systems as the study found,” he added.

The study also demonstrates a discrepancy between treatment guidelines – which emphasize the value of parental reassurance and nutritional advice – and their implementation.

For more details about the study, please read the full text of the paper “The costs of functional gastrointestinal disorders and related signs and symptoms in infants: a systematic literature review and cost calculation for England”.

Here you can watch the animated graphic illustrating the study highlights in 3 minutes.