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Letter from Brussels: 1,027.50 Euros Per Month

by De Ket in Columns & Opinions , 06 mei 2015


Dear Neighbors to the North, In Belgium, HIV treatment costs 1,027.50 Euros per patient per month, or 12,330 Euros per year. These are some of the conclusions of a study from the University of Hasselt on the total economic health costs of HIV treatment in Belgium.

It is the first study that is about total costs of antiretroviral combination therapy. In a press release, the researchers note that: “Our result show the savings potential of these medication costs, but also the need to keep investing in targeted awareness campaigns to prevent the risk of infection.

By now, everyone knows that HIV therapy is very expensive. The figure of around thousand Euros per month was around for several years, and no one ever doubted this for some reason. This study confirms this figure (approximately) - a validated scientific confirmation. All Belgian HIV patients receiving medical treatment, about 13,500, represent approximately three to four percent of the total annual expenditure of health insurances on medicines.

Even though it is essential that costs of a particular disease are mapped, it is remarkable that the results of such a survey are picked up by the press, while the total costs of other diseases, such as diabetes or cardiovascular disease are not known or are not worth being investigated, let alone picked up by the media. These costs are perhaps hundredfold, if not more. Of course, this is about considerably larger number of patients, but they also can be made aware of the total costs they cause by often having an unhealthy and unbalanced lifestyle.

Because that is what these studies are about. Just look at the seize of that big hole in the budget those HIV patients are responsible for. Without explicitly pointing out the perhaps wild life some gay people lead, they implicitly want to force a conscience on the gay community and rub the financial consequences of certain behavior in their nose.

This form of stigmatization of gay men, via the detour of expensive HIV therapy, is eagerly picked up by the media. Researchers are primarily concerned about media attention, as publicity for their studies looks good on their resume. In that context, HIV patients are easy prey, because the number of patients is limited, while the financial impact of their disease is (fairly) easy to determine.

But people should be wondering why these researchers did not target rare diseases that only involve dozens of Belgian patients. Diseases that often costs hundreds of thousands per year per patient. Having such a disease is a terrible thing, but these patients did not cause the disease, something that cannot always be said about HIV if you allow “breeding” at a bareback party.

HIV-positive patients receiving treatment now know how much their treatment sets back Belgian health insurers. This group of patients is now hoping that some clever health economist does not get the idea of doing similar research over the coming years. In case PhD health economy students lack inspiration for a subject theme, here are some suggestions in mapping the total costs of diseases for Belgian health insurers: lung cancer, cardiac arrest, obesity and sport injuries.



Good luck!

Yours sincerely


De Ket



 







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