This Skin Condition Is Expensive

Psoriasis health care costs estimated in the billions of dollars in 2013

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Like other chronic diseases, psoriasis can cost patients an arm and a leg. And as treatments improve and awareness increases, those treatment costs could be money well spent.

A new review found that psoriasis cost the US billions of dollars each year. A chronic condition, psoriasis usually requires long-term medical management. Psoriasis treatment is usually effective for patients.

This cost data could provide information for psoriasis research, educational efforts and advocacy, the authors of this study said.

Elizabeth A. Brezinski, MD, of the University of California, Davis, Sacramento, led this review, in which she and her co-authors examined 22 studies related to psoriasis costs.

"Defining the economic burden of psoriasis from a societal perspective is the foundation for innovating and providing access to cost-effective therapies that will result in improved patient outcomes," Dr. Brezinski and team wrote.

Psoriasis, an inflammatory skin disease, affects around 3.2 percent of the US population, Dr. Brezinski and her team wrote.

Dr. Brezinski and team estimated the total costs or psoriasis to be between $112 and $135 billion in 2013. Among the research team's other findings:

  • Direct costs — which included costs for medications and other treatment — were estimated between $51.7 and $63.2 billion.
  • Indirect costs were estimated to be between $23.9 and $35.4 billion.
  • Costs from other medical conditions related to psoriasis — such as skin infections or heart disease — were estimated at $36.4 billion.
  • Intangible costs — which included costs related to having psoriasis, such as the mental health aspects of dealing with a chronic disease — amounted to a one-time cost of $11,498 per patient with psoriasis.

Psoriasis is more than a skin disease. People with psoriasis often have joint problems and can develop psoriatic arthritis. They are more likely to develop heart disease and depression than people without psoriasis.

Medical costs of a disease include the costs of treatment for the disease itself, related aspects like mental health and societal costs like lost productivity for employers. Costs could include both direct treatment and indirect costs like the cost of absenteeism when an employee with psoriasis calls in sick.

For comparison, the total estimated cost for diabetes was $245 billion in 2012 — $176 billion of which was for direct medical costs, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Like psoriasis, diabetes is a chronic medical condition.

This review was published online Jan. 7 in JAMA Dermatology.

The authors disclosed no funding sources. Dr. April W. Armstrong had connections to AbbVie, Amgen, Celgene, Janssen, Lilly, Merck, Pfizer and UCB — companies that manufacture or distribute medications used in psoriasis treatment. The authors disclosed no other conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
January 6, 2015
Last Updated:
January 11, 2015