Allergy shots are commonly known in the medical community as immunotherapy. They are one of (if not the) most effective treatments for allergic rhinitis (hay fever), allergic asthma and flying insect allergy. There are some data indicating that immunotherapy might be effective for atopic dermatitis (eczema) when the patient’s disease is associated with environmental aeroallergen sensitivity (especially dust mite allergy). Treatment with allergy shots can reduce your need for medications, make asthma easier to control and give relief from allergy and sinus symptoms. In children, allergy shots may reduce the risk of developing asthma later in life and reduce the risk of developing additional allergies. So what does this mean in terms of health care costs? Are the medical benefits of shots outweighed by its expense?
I recently wrote about the current evidence showing significant cost savings for patients suffering from allergic disease and starting allergy shots. The same group of investigators have published a more extensive analysis of health care spending for both adults and children who have undergone treatment with allergy shots. They examined data on almost 25,000 patients with allergic rhinitis. About 5,000 of them were started on allergy shots. They then compared health care costs for those who received treatment versus those who did not. They found that the allergy shot treated patients incurred, on average, a 38% reduction in health care costs over the initial 18 month time frame after starting treatment. This translated into over $4,000 in decreased health care spending with significant savings observed within 3 months of starting treatment. Health care savings for adults was similar to children ($4,397 versus $3,965 respectively). These are truly incredible findings. They add to the existing literature showing that allergy shots are not only the most effective treatment for certain allergic diseases, but they are also very cost effective. That is a win-win situation!
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Dr. Ananth Thyagarajan (Dr. T.)