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The scope of costs in alcohol studies: Cost-of-illness studies differ from economic evaluations

DOI: 10.1186/1478-7547-8-15

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Abstract:

To investigate the economic costs attributable to alcohol in cost-of-illness studies we used the results of a recent systematic review (June 2009). We performed a PubMed search to identify economic evaluations on alcohol interventions. Only economic evaluations in which two or more interventions were compared from a societal perspective were included. The proportion of health care costs and the proportion of societal costs were estimated in both type of studies.The proportion of healthcare costs in cost-of-illness studies was 17% and the proportion of societal costs 83%. In economic evaluations, the proportion of healthcare costs was 57%, and the proportion of societal costs was 43%.The costs included in economic evaluations performed from a societal perspective do not correspond with those included in cost-of-illness studies. Economic evaluations on alcohol abuse underreport true societal cost of alcohol abuse. When considering implementation of alcohol abuse interventions, policy makers should take into account that economic evaluations from the societal perspective might underestimate the total effects and costs of interventions.Alcohol abuse results in problems on various levels in society. In terms of health, alcohol abuse is not only an important risk factor for chronic disease, but it is also related to unintentional and intentional injuries [1-3]. On the social level the WHO Expert Committee on Problems Related to Alcohol Consumption reported that social harms which can be related to drinking include interpersonal problems, work problems, violent and other crimes [2].From the economic point of view, the estimated tangible costs of alcohol in the European Union were €125 billion in 2003, including €59 billion worth of lost productivity through absenteeism, unemployment and lost working years due to premature death [4]. Another study reported that the weighted average costs in four high-income countries (France, USA, Scotland and Canada) were 1.4% of the gross

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