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Researchers Estimate Costs of Childhood Food Allergies

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TUESDAY, Sept. 17 (HealthDay News) -- Childhood food allergies result in significant direct medical costs for the U.S. health care system and even larger total costs for families of food-allergic children, according to a study published online Sept. 16 in JAMA Pediatrics.

Ruchi Gupta, M.D., from the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago, and colleagues conducted a survey (Nov. 28, 2011, through Jan. 26, 2012) of U.S. caregivers of a child with a current food allergy. Caregivers quantified the direct medical, out-of-pocket, lost labor productivity, and related opportunity costs as well as their willingness to pay for an effective food allergy treatment.

The researchers found that the overall economic cost of food allergies was estimated at $24.8 billion annually ($4,184 per year per child), with direct medical costs accounting for $4.3 billion annually, including clinician visits, emergency department visits, and hospitalizations. Costs of $20.5 billion were borne by families annually, including lost labor productivity ($0.77 billion), out-of-pocket expenses ($5.5 billion, of which 31 percent was from the cost of specialty food), and opportunity costs ($14.2 billion from caregivers needing to leave or change jobs). For food allergy treatment, caregivers reported a willingness to pay $20.8 billion annually ($3,504 per year per child).

"Childhood food allergy results in significant direct medical costs for the U.S. health care system and even larger costs for families with a food-allergic child," the authors write.

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