Cost of treating otitis media in Australia
Date of this Version
Objective: Otitis media (OM) is an inflammation of the middle ear. It is very common and associated with serious complications, including hearing loss. This study aimed to estimate the treatment costs of OM in Australia and the associated burden of disease (in disability-adjusted life-years).
Methods: Little Australia-wide epidemiological information is available, so international studies in the main were used to estimate the incidence and prevalence by age and gender. These were triangulated against the available Australian data. Australian health data sets and data collected from the emergency department of a tertiary pediatric hospital were used to estimate the costs of primary care, pharmaceuticals, pathology and imaging, emergency department presentations, specialists, and admitted hospital care.
Results: Excluding the costs of the complications and comorbidities associated with OM, treatment costs for the disease in 2008 were between AUS$100 and 400 million. Visits to general practitioners and medicines constituted a high proportion of these costs. Antibiotic prescribing rates remain high despite clear evidence for a limited benefit from antibiotics for most OM cases and concerns regarding bacterial resistance.
Conclusion: Treatment costs of OM in Australia are high and can only be estimated within a broad range. Further research on the links between antibiotics for OM and antibiotic resistance, and on the cost–effectiveness of prevention or amelioration of OM would be useful.
This document has been peer reviewed.