In 2007, total national health expenditures
rose by about 6.9 percent - about twice the inflation rate. And the
total spending amounted to $2.3
trillion in 2007; $7600 per person cost. In all representing 16 percent
of the gross domestic product (GDP) of the U.S. Can dietary supplements
control some of these costs?
The burgeoning healthcare costs are a concern for everyone from
policymakers to government officials. While they do agree to reigning
in on the increasing healthcare costs, they often don't, on the means
to achieve that.
Not too far back, the Lewin Group
Inc. was asked by the Dietary Supplement Education Alliance (DSEA) to
conduct an evidence-based research of five dietary supplements, for
which a high grade evidence exists, and for which the US FDA has
approved health claims.
The five dietary supplements
included: calcium (with Vitamin D), folic acid, omega-3 fatty acids,
glucosamine, and saw palmetto. The researchers found that not only
could these supplements improve health but can also have a direct
impact in helping reduce healthcare costs by billions.
If all those aged over 65 were to consider a daily intake of 1200 mgs. of calcium with Vitamin
D, then the estimate of net savings for a five-year period (2005-2009)
in hospital, nursing facility, and physician expenditures due to hip
fractures among this population could be $13.9 billion.
The total lifetime cost of a baby afflicted with
Neural Tube Defect (NTD) is about $532,000, considering the direct
medical costs, therapies, medical equipment, etc. Estimates reveal that
if only 10.8 million additional women began taking 400 mcg. of folic
acid daily before becoming pregnant, it would prevent 600 babies being
born with NTD. The resulting savings over a five year period in
lifetime costs would be $1.3 billion.
Omega-3 fatty acids:
The cost of cardiovascular disease (CVD) in
2004 was about $368.4 billion. Further, research suggests that omega-3
fatty acids have beneficial effects on cardiovascular disease (CVD) by
way of lowering blood pressure, increasing the body's capacity for
exercise in patients suffering from coronary artherosclerosis, and
more. Consequently, due to the benefits derived from Omega-3 fatty
acids not only in CVD patients, but other conditions too, the
healthcare costs could be effectively harnessed.
Osteoarthritis is one of the commonest of
musculoskeletal disease around the world. While its actual causes
remain elusive, about 10 million adults were diagnosed with the disease
in 1999. Furthermore, about 5 million adults complained of knee
joint pain, swelling, and stiffness. Since, glucosamine has been
observed to house anti-inflammatory attributes coupled with an ability
to repair and maintain cartilage, it could eventually turn out to be
big healthcare cost saver.
The condition, benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH)
is a common and morbid medical condition affecting men and causes
urinary symptoms in a majority of men over the age of 50. The
preliminary findings from studies on saw palmetto suggest that the herb
may help alleviate the symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH)
in addition to improving the symptoms of chronic urinary syndrome in
men. If further studies support the efficacy of the herb then a lot of
men could benefit in reducing their suffering, and costs to the medical industry
would be curtailed.
So while policy makers grapple with inefficiencies, inflated prices,
excessive administrative expenses, ineffective management, waste and
fraud, often cited as the reasons behind inflated healthcare costs,
considering the potential of dietary supplements in helping the cause
doesn't look like a bad idea.