NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

TREATING HIV PATIENTS: SUCCESSFUL BUT COSTLY

November 13, 2006

An American diagnosed with the AIDS virus can expect to live for about 24 years on average, but the cost of health care over those two-plus decades is more than $600,000, new research indicates.

According to the authors of a study published in the journal Medical Care:

  • The average monthly cost of care equals $2,100 per person, with about two-thirds of that spent on medications.
  • That equates to an average annual cost of about $25,200 -- nearly 40 percent higher than a commonly cited estimate from the late 1990s.
  • The lifetime total of $618,000 is roughly equivalent to lifetime cost estimates for heart disease and some other chronic conditions in women, who incur more costs than men because they live longer.
  • Life expectancy has also changed -- from around 10 year in older studies, to 24 years today.

However, in their cost estimates, the researchers aimed high, basing their numbers on the best available drugs and the best standards of care. But that's not always what's provided, some HIV policy experts noted. A 2003 federal study concluded that only 55 percent of HIV patients who should have been on virus-fighting medications were actually getting them.

Source: Editorial, "HIV Life Expectancy Is Extended to 24 Years," Wall Street Journal, November 13, 2006; based upon: Bruce R. Schackman et al., "The Lifetime Cost of Current Human Immunodeficiency Virus Care in the United States," Medical Care, Vol. 44, No. 11, November 2006.

 

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