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ANTIOXIDANT VITAMIN USE ACROSS U.S. POPULATION COULD SAVE $ 8.7 BIL.

This article was originally published in The Tan Sheet

Executive Summary

ANTIOXIDANT VITAMIN USE ACROSS U.S. POPULATION COULD SAVE $ 8.7 BIL. in U.S. health care costs annually from reduced hospitalizations for cardiovascular disease and breast, lung and stomach cancers, according to an economic analysis conducted by Pracon, Inc. and presented to the Council for Responsible Nutrition annual conference on Sept. 22 in Washington, D.C. The study by Reston, Va.-based Pracon, an economic analysis firm specializing in pharmaceutical outcomes research, found that the U.S. could save $ 7.7 bil. a year in hospitalizations for heart disease if American consumers increased their intake of vitamin E to 100-400 IUs a day. Pracon estimated that regular use of vitamin E at optimal levels could reduce the number of hospitalizations across the U.S. by 25%, or approximately 500,000 a year. The Pracon study projects that the Medicare program could save $ 1.5 bil. a year from reduced cardiovascular hospitalizations if vitamin E was widely consumed by the elderly at optimal levels. For breast, lung and stomach cancer, the Pracon study projected savings of $ 196.4 mil. for the Medicare program and $ 1 bil. for the U.S. healthcare system if Americans took optimal amounts of antioxidant vitamins C and E and beta carotene. "These figures represent only one portion of the potential savings since hospitalizations represent only a piece of the total medical costs of the diseases studied," Pracon Senior Director Steven Pashko, PhD, said. Calling the numbers "conservative," he pointed out that other measurements of cost-savings -- such as prevention of disease and medical visits, or effect on productivity -- were not considered in the study. In a presentation of the study to the CRN annual conference, Pashko explained that Pracon limited the analysis to hospitalizations because "it's a more easily quantifiable number than all health care visits for certain types -of disorders." Nevertheless, he said he was "astounded and almost incredulous over the size of the effect, believing all the way through that the methods I've used are very conservative and very appropriate." The study was based on prevention rates culled from scientific studies, including two studies by Harvard Medical School researchers on the role of vitamin E in preventing heart attacks that were published in the New England Journal of Medicine in May. To arrive at its projections, Pracon applied the relative risk from the research studies to a number of large databases with information on Medicare and U.S. hospitalization rates, as well as California's Acute Care Hospital data, for costs of hospitalizations. Based on the relative risk findings from the trials, Pracon estimated that optimal use of antioxidant vitamins would translate into a "preventable fraction" for reducing hospitalizations for breast cancer by 16%, for lung cancer by 21%, for stomach cancer by 30%, for cardiovascular disease by 25% and for cataracts by 50%. Most of the reduction in hospitalizations seen in the Pracon study was in the cardiovascular area, where the 25% preventable fraction multiplied by the over 2 mil. hospitalizations a year in the U.S. came out to over 500,000 preventable hospitalizations. The report estimates that lung cancer and breast cancer hospitalizations would be reduced by 44,310 and 25,953, respectively, across the U.S. each year. Pharmavite Chairman and CEO Kenneth Rosenberg indicated that CRN is considering whether to pursue further analyses on the potential for dietary supplement use to reduce health care costs. "While we think the results of the study that you are about to hear have enormous public health implications," Rosenberg said, "the work done thus far has only been limited to data relating to a small portion of the total cost. Expanding this project is something that the CRN board of directors will be considering." Pashko suggested that the cost saving figures indicate that "there needs to be a paradigm shift." He said he viewed "these numbers as . . . a failure of marketing, in a sense, to effectively promote this level of change."
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