The high cost of acute otitis media

February 3, 2014

Researchers recently determined that acute otitis media is associated with an incremental increase in outpatient health care costs of $314 per child per year in the United States, which translates into approximately $2.88 billion in added health care expense annually.

Acute otitis media (AOM) is associated with an incremental increase in outpatient healthcare costs of $314 per child per year in the United States, which translates into approximately $2.88 billion in added healthcare expense annually, according to researchers.

According to the most recent American Academy of Pediatrics Clinical Practice Guideline on the subject, although the number of clinician visits and antibiotic prescriptions written for OM have decreased since 1995, OM remains the number one reason that children in the United States are prescribed antibiotics, and the percentage of office visits resulting in antibiotic prescriptions has remained more or less stable.

Researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles and Harvard University, Boston, Massachusetts, conducted a cross-sectional analysis of a national healthcare cost database.

They looked at children aged younger than aged 18 years from the 2009 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, a longitudinal, nationally represented survey conducted by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality that provides comprehensive information on the health status of Americans; health insurance coverage; and access, use, and cost of health services. They added ambulatory visit rates, prescription refills, and ambulatory healthcare costs for children with and without a diagnosis of AOM.

About 8.7 million children of the approximately 81.5 million sampled had been diagnosed with AOM.

After adjusting for age, sex, region, race, ethnicity, insurance coverage, and Charlson comorbidity index, the investigators found that children with AOM had, on average, an additional 2 office visits, an additional 0.2 emergency department visits, and an additional 1.6 prescriptions per year compared with those children without AOM, resulting in an additional $314 per child annually and an increase of $17 in patient medication costs. However, AOM was not associated with an increase in total prescription expenses.