In the first study to assess the economic burden of precocious puberty, costs directly related to the condition totaled $10,472 in the year following the diagnosis, according to Shih-Yin Chen, MD, of BioSource Corp., in Lexington, Mass., and colleagues, MedPage Today reported.
But because these children have significantly more comorbidities than developmentally normal children, the total costs accrued during that year reached $21,715 compared with a total of $923 in controls, the researchers said in a poster session at the annual meeting of the Endocrine Society.
Central precocious puberty is the gonadotropin-dependent premature onset of secondary sex characteristics in girls before age eight and in boys before age nine.
The condition occurs in some 1 in 5,000 to 10,000 children, with girls being affected ten times more often than boys.
While medical management has been known to be expensive, few data have been available that quantify the specific costs.
To answer those cost questions, Chen and colleagues identified a cohort of 181 children with precocious puberty and 724 matched controls from a commercial claims database.
Patients included in the study had to have at least one gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonist prescribed during the 12 months after the diagnosis.
At the time of diagnosis, 2.2% of patients were younger than three years, while 3.9% were four to five years old, 23.8% were six to seven, and 42.5% were eight to nine years.
Risk factors of affected children included trauma to the central nervous system, low birth weight, neonatal encephalopathy, hypothyroidism, hydrocephalus, and brain tumors.
Even during the year before diagnosis, affected children had significantly more medical costs than their healthy counterparts in hospital admissions, physician office visits, emergency department visits, and use of laboratory services (all P<0.05). They also had significantly more visits to mental health and dermatology specialists both before and after the diagnosis (P<0.05).
And while almost 10% had been to an endocrinologist during the year before diagnosis, compared with a negligible percentage of controls, almost 60% required specialist endocrinology services in the year following diagnosis.
The investigators also charted median monthly healthcare costs pre- and post-diagnosis, and while costs for controls remained flat, at about $100 per month, costs for the children with precocious puberty ranged from $200 to $400 in the year before diagnosis and climbed to higher than $1,200 each month thereafter.
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