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2013-09-30

Billion-Dollar $upplements

Here is study looking at the economic benefits of the natural health products industry. This was a US study, but relevant to Canada (just divide by 10 to get a rough estimate on Canadian data).

In the US, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 75% of health care dollars go to the treatment of chronic disease, with only 3% spent on prevention. Chronic disease is a huge burden on people’s quality of life, and healthcare systems spend a tremendous amount of money and human resources in treating these chronic disease. However, it has failed to focus on ways to reduce those costs through prevention, which could have profound benefits on economics.

Therefore, researchers conducted a systematic review of hundreds of studies on eight proven natural health products across four common diseases. This allowed them to determine the reduction in disease risk from these ingredients. They also predicted the rates of medical events across the high-risk populations, which then allowed them to apply a cost-benefit analyses to determine the healthcare cost savings if these high risk people took supplements at levels indicated for prevention.

The key findings for the eight products, and the potential healthcare savings (if US adults aged 55 and older and diagnosed with these chronic diseases) are as follows:
  • Calcium & vitamin D in women with osteoporosis: The potential net savings could be as high as $1.25bn. Taking into account the fact that about 28% of this target population already takes these supplements, the overall savings per year are $1.08 bn.
  • Magnesium for osteoporosis: The potential net savings after accounting for magnesium supplement costs are $595.3 million, and with 10% of this population already taking magnesium supplements, the overall savings per year could be $530 million.
  • Lutein & zeaxanthin for age-related eye diseases (age-related macular degeneration and cataracts): These supplements are reported to reduce the risk of these diseases by 23%, which would offer potential savings of $930 million, accounting for supplement costs and current supplement use (of only 4%).
  • Omega-3s for coronary heart disease: CHD currently costs the US $77.9bn, and with omega-3s offering a relative risk reduction of 6.9%, the overall net potential savings would be $930 million, accounting for supplement costs and current supplement use (28%), and more than $3.88 billion in cumulative health care cost savings from 2013 to 2020.
  • B vitamins (folic acid, B6, and B12) for CHD: The science suggests that B vitamins may offer a relative risk reduction of 3.3%, said the Frost & Sullivan researchers, which would translate into $560 million of net savings, accounting for supplement costs and current supplement use (14%).
  • Psyllium dietary fibre for CHD: Psyllium supplements would offer an 11.5% relative risk reduction, which would provide about $2.3 bn of savings, accounting for supplement costs and current supplement use (8%).
  • Phytosterols for CHD: Phytosterols offer an 11.2% relative risk reduction, which would provide about $3.3 bn of savings, accounting for supplement costs and current supplement use (less than 1%).
  • Chromium picolinate for potential diabetes-attributed CHD costs: This ingredients offer potential costs savings of $970 million of savings, accounting for supplement costs and current supplement use (less than 1%).
...and what would we do with all those savings?! Maybe less taxes? Better & cheaper public transit? Safe, cost-effective universal childcare? Subsidizing organic agriculture and research? Tax deductions for the use of natural health products? Hmmm...

Source: Smart Prevention – Health Care Cost Savings Resulting from theTargeted Use of Dietary Supplements


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