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Rising Costs of Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Posted On April 15, 2015
April 15, 2015

As Baby Boom Generation Ages Sleep Related Health Issues Costing Billions

The number of United States patients suffering with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is approximately 22 million people, according to the American Sleep Association. The prevalence of OSA is twice as high in patients aged older than 60 years-of-age, and OSA-related costs will continue to go up as our demographics shift. With the United States quickly becoming a population of older adults, OSA will become more common.

The annual cost of untreated OSA in the United States is an astronomical $65 to $165 billion dollars, according to researchers in the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School. Beyond direct sleep related issues, OSA has a direct relationship to other illnesses, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension and stroke, causing the potential for healthcare costs to rise, especially as the large population of Baby Boomers are over 60s years-of-age.

Dr. Cary Shames, a medical director for the Americas at ResMed Corp., provided the keynote address at ASPA’s conference – entitled The Economic and Clinical Impact of Sleep Apnea – where he further illustrated the costs associated with untreated OSA.

“Research indicates there are $65 billion to $165 billion in annual costs related to sleep apnea,” he said. “Some $5 billion to $10 billion of that result from lost productivity, another $10 billion to $40 billion from traffic accidents related to fatigue, with $45 billion to $80 billion resulting from ‘hidden’ health care costs such as extra hospitalization, etc. Only $2 billion to $10 billion revolve around the cost to diagnose and treat OSA: a very small amount by comparison.”

The costs associated with OSA and the related risks is greater than the total cost of managing patients with asthma, heart failure, stroke and hypertension combined. OSA cost estimates from the 2010 report were based on initial diagnosis and treatment, medical costs due to co-morbidities, traffic accidents associated with OSA, workplace accidents, loss of productivity and the societal costs.

Currently, the most common way to treat sleep apnea sufferers is with a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine. While initial costs can make this seem like the best affordable treatment option, the main issue lies in 50% patient incompliance with CPAP machines. Additionally, the cost can equal $5,000 for each patient over their life expectancy.

The largest expense, however, is from related conditions that develop due to the sleep disorder. Nearly every sleep apnea suffer also develops an additional medical condition due to the strain sleep apnea puts on your cardiovascular system.

Jeffrey L. Silveria, MD, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of SATCOA, became very concerned about his patients who continually stopped CPAP treatment putting them back at risk.

 “As Physicians, we had to find a curative option for sleep apnea sufferers,” Dr. Silveira said. “CPAP treatment manages the patient’s condition without ever addressing the underlying issues causing the sleep apnea.”

As a more effective treatment option, Dr. Silveira spent years perfecting the Radiofequency Ablation (RFA) of the tongue procedure. His result was an outpatient, minimally invasive procedure that takes just five minutes over the course of five to eight treatments.

RFA works by directing small amounts of targeted energy to the base of the tongue in the back of the throat. Following the procedure, the treated area heals; tissue is tightened and thus reduced in size. This tightening and reduction directly prevents the tongue from blocking the airway while one sleeps, reducing and virtually eliminating sleep apnea.

“Today, the approximately 1 in 15 Americans afflicted with this disorder have an alternative to uncomfortable, invasive treatment,” Dr. Silvera said. “Sleep apnea sufferers are treated with a radiofrequency ablation (RFA) procedure in an in-office setting.”

Overall, the SATCOA estimates a cost savings up to $400,000 throughout their lifetime if the individual receives RFA at the time of diagnosis, instead of mismanaging their condition. Sleep Apnea Treatment Centers of America are currently taking new patients and insurance covers the procedure in most cases.

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