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Expensive care Non-communicable diseases weigh heavily on healthcare costs

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Treating muscle and skeletal disorders costs CHF8.7 billion a year in Switzerland

(Keystone)

Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) account for 80% of healthcare costs in Switzerland, with cardiovascular diseases being the most expensive, according to the first study to look at direct treatment costs of NCDs. 

The studyexternal link, published recently in the European Journal of Health Economicsexternal link, estimates the total annual treatment costs of non-communicable diseases in Switzerland at CHF51 billion ($51.3 billion), according to the latest edition of the Swiss Medical Journalexternal link.

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Cardiovascular diseases are most costly, accounting for 15.6% (CHF10 billion) of total healthcare costs. Muscle and skeletal disorders such as osteoarthritis, rheumatism and back pain follow at 13.4% (CHF8.7 billion). 

Third, at 10.6% (CHF6.9 billion), is the treatment of mental illnesses such as depression. 

Cancer, which is ranked the seventh-most expensive NCD at 6% (CHF3.9 billion), came in with lower than expected costs, said the authors. 

Though the second leading cause of death in the country, it’s often fatal nature means the duration of treatment is relatively short, they said. New and expensive drugs can increase the life expectancy of many patients, but they make the cancer more of a chronic disease. 

Similarly, only 1.7% (CHF1.1 billion) of treatment costs in Switzerland are for dementia, even though the disease is often cited as the reason for rising health costs. The authors explain that fewer people have dementia than generally thought, while the treatment of many patients is relatively cheap, as in some cases relatives take on the care and support. 

The figures were compiled by an interdisciplinary research team that based its research on a report commissioned by the Federal Office of Public Health. This latter report was drafted in 2014 by the Zurich University of Applied Sciences, the University of Zurich, the Polynomics research institute and Helsana health insurance.

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