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Dietary Supplements - Saving Billions in Healthcare Costs
By Themedica on November 24, 2008 9:00 AM |
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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?

National-Health-Expenditure.jpg 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.

Calcium: 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.
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Folic Acid: 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.

Glucosamine: 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.
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Saw Palmetto: 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.

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