The economic and societal impact of cardiovascular disease

In 2015, 17.7 million people died from cardiovascular diseases worldwide[1]. This number is projected to rise to 22 million by the year 2030[2]. Coupled with an aging population, the rising prevalence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) is putting pressure and additional costs on healthcare systems and businesses worldwide.

Expenditure on health and prevention should not be seen as a one-time expense, but as an investment towards increased welfare, productivity and economic growth.


The cost of treating cardiovascular disease

An aging population is not the sole contributing factor to increased levels of non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular conditions. Other risk factors include a lack of physical exercise, poor diet, and tobacco use[3]. The costs involved in treating patients for heart attack or stroke are substantial: in the EU, the annual cost of cardiovascular conditions is estimated at €210 billion per year. Of this total cost, around 53% (€111 billion) is due to health care costs and 26% (€54 billion) due to productivity losses. The remaining 21% (€45 billion) is made up of costs arising from time and effort given by informal caregivers such as family members of patients with cardiovascular diseases[4].

The bulk of the costs can be attributed to failing to recover from cardiovascular episodes, leading to: loss of money through premature death or due to decreased productivity. The cost in lost productivity is high – patients require time off work to recover from surgery or illness. This results in a diminished income for the patient as well as reduced productivity for employers, leading to overall economic losses.

In order to tackle the impact of such diseases, it is imperative that governments take a holistic view of healthcare, taking into account the costs ascribed to hospitalization and diagnosis.

The value in preventing cardiovascular disease

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Spending geared towards health and prevention should not be seen as simply one cost at a specific point in time, but as an investment towards increased welfare, productivity and economic growth. If we look at the United States, for example, the American Heart Association conducted a study[5] in 2011 that showed prevention strategies could be cost effective in the long run. For example: community-based programs promoting physical exercise, a balanced diet, and cessation of smoking and tobacco use carry a return-on-investment of $5.60 for every dollar spent over five years[6]. Prevention saves on costs but could also save lives.

Saving healthcare costs through innovative medicines

Innovative medicines can save healthcare systems costs by reducing hospitalizations, visits to the physician, as well as expensive procedures and surgeries. Innovative medicines look for better ways to treat patients, giving them a higher quality of life and alleviating the burden on healthcare systems. New cardiovascular disease medications in OECD countries are estimated to have reduced hospitalization costs by 70% between 1993 and 2005[7]. Innovative medicines comprise a small fraction of overall health spending in OECD countries, yet deliver in value to patients and cost savings over their lifecycle, including after patent exclusivity. A holistic look at healthcare can therefore deliver in providing both solutions for patients and solutions for the ever-mounting pressure on healthcare systems.

[1] World Health Organization, Cardiovascular Disease Fact Sheet(2017) , Last accessed August 2018
[2] World Health Organization, Global Health Estimates Summary Tables: Projection of Deaths by Cause, Age & Sex (2013)
[3] World Health Organization, Cardiovascular disease, Last accessed August 2018
[4] European Heart Network, European cardiovascular disease statistics 2017, Last accessed August 2018
[5] Circulation Vol. 124, No. 8, Weintraub et al.: Value of Primordial and Primary Prevention for Cardiovascular Disease, Last accessed August 2018
[6] MedPage Today, AHA: Preventing Heart Disease Cost-Effective, Last accessed August 2018
[7] National Prevention Council, National Prevention Strategy (2011). Last accessed August 2018
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