The economic cost of asthma in the United States is nearly $82 billion a year, federal health officials report.

That figure includes medical expenses and costs associated with work and school absences and deaths.

However, the true cost of asthma is probably underestimated because the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study did not include people with untreated asthma.

The new analysis was based on federal government data, collected from 2008 to 2013. It showed that about 15.4 million people were treated for asthma each year. The annual per-person medical cost of asthma was $3,266.

Of that per-person amount, $1,830 was for prescriptions, $640 for office visits, $529 for hospitalizations, $176 for hospital outpatient visits and $105 for emergency room care.

Asthma-related deaths cost $29 billion a year, with an average of 3,168 deaths a year.

Asthma resulted in 8.7 million lost work days and 5.2 million lost school days a year, for a combined annual cost of $3 billion.

The findings were published online Jan. 12 in the Annals of the American Thoracic Society.

“The cost of asthma is one of the most important measures of the burden of the disease,” study lead author Tursynbek Nurmagambetov, a health economist at the CDC, said in a journal news release. “Cost studies can influence health policy decisions and help decision makers understand the scale, seriousness and implications of asthma so that resources can be identified to improve disease management and reduce the burden of asthma.”

The findings show “the critical need to support and further strengthen asthma control strategies,” Nurmagambetov said.

More information

The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more on asthma.

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