The Article: Chesson, H.W., Ekwueme, D.U., Watson, M., Lowy, D.R., Markowitza, L.E. (2012). Estimates of the annual direct medical costs of the prevention and treatment of disease associated with human papillomavirus in the United States. Vaccine, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.vaccine.2012.07.056.
Big Idea: Human papillomavirus, or HPV, infection is linked to numerous diseases, both benign and malignant. Cancers linked with various HPV strains include cervical, vaginal, penile, anal, and certain head and neck cancers. Two HPV vaccines are currently available within the U.S. and could potentially reduce the incidence of the benign and malignant HPV-related diseases. The study authors updated the direct medical costs of HPV-associated diseases to stress the overall health and economic benefits of HPV vaccination.
Survey Says!: After all the computing, the researchers reported the direct cost of HPV-related diseases in the U.S. is $8 billion, most of which is attributed to the burden of cervical cancer.
Quotable: “Cervical cancer screening and follow-up together account for about $6.5 billion of the $8 billion total, or a little over 80% of the total estimated costs. This observation is consistent with findings from numerous studies that the cost-effectiveness of HPV vaccination could be enhanced greatly if vaccination is combined with reductions in routine cervical cancer screening costs through a delayed age of onset of screening or less frequent screening, or both [references]. Further, vaccination can help to reduce the follow-up costs of cervical cancer screening, such as costs associated with cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (p. 3).
So What?: $8 billion is quite a number. This is only direct costs, and does not include indirect costs such as loss of work, etc. for those living with HPV-related illnesses. It is clear the economic burden of HPV-related cancers is high. This article is helpful as leverage to increase HPV vaccination. I found that I was lacking comparison, though, to help me think through the study. What is the economic burden of other cancers? Preventable cancers? Virus-linked cancers? With the current cost of HPV vaccination and FDA vaccination guidelines/recommendations, what is the estimated financial impact on the estimated annual direct medical costs if vaccination increased? Overall, this is an interesting and useful article, and it left me wanting and wondering more.