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      Defining Catastrophic Costs and Comparing Their Importance for Adverse Tuberculosis Outcome with Multi-Drug Resistance: A Prospective Cohort Study, Peru

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          Tom Wingfield and colleagues investigate the relationship between catastrophic costs and tuberculosis outcomes for patients receiving free tuberculosis care in Peru.

          Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary



          Even when tuberculosis (TB) treatment is free, hidden costs incurred by patients and their households (TB-affected households) may worsen poverty and health. Extreme TB-associated costs have been termed “catastrophic” but are poorly defined. We studied TB-affected households' hidden costs and their association with adverse TB outcome to create a clinically relevant definition of catastrophic costs.

          Methods and Findings

          From 26 October 2002 to 30 November 2009, TB patients ( n = 876, 11% with multi-drug-resistant [MDR] TB) and healthy controls ( n = 487) were recruited to a prospective cohort study in shantytowns in Lima, Peru. Patients were interviewed prior to and every 2–4 wk throughout treatment, recording direct (household expenses) and indirect (lost income) TB-related costs. Costs were expressed as a proportion of the household's annual income. In poorer households, costs were lower but constituted a higher proportion of the household's annual income: 27% (95% CI = 20%–43%) in the least-poor houses versus 48% (95% CI = 36%–50%) in the poorest. Adverse TB outcome was defined as death, treatment abandonment or treatment failure during therapy, or recurrence within 2 y. 23% (166/725) of patients with a defined treatment outcome had an adverse outcome. Total costs ≥20% of household annual income was defined as catastrophic because this threshold was most strongly associated with adverse TB outcome. Catastrophic costs were incurred by 345 households (39%). Having MDR TB was associated with a higher likelihood of incurring catastrophic costs (54% [95% CI = 43%–61%] versus 38% [95% CI = 34%–41%], p<0.003). Adverse outcome was independently associated with MDR TB (odds ratio [OR] = 8.4 [95% CI = 4.7–15], p<0.001), previous TB (OR = 2.1 [95% CI = 1.3–3.5], p = 0.005), days too unwell to work pre-treatment (OR = 1.01 [95% CI = 1.00–1.01], p = 0.02), and catastrophic costs (OR = 1.7 [95% CI = 1.1–2.6], p = 0.01). The adjusted population attributable fraction of adverse outcomes explained by catastrophic costs was 18% (95% CI = 6.9%–28%), similar to that of MDR TB (20% [95% CI = 14%–25%]). Sensitivity analyses demonstrated that existing catastrophic costs thresholds (≥10% or ≥15% of household annual income) were not associated with adverse outcome in our setting. Study limitations included not measuring certain “dis-saving” variables (including selling household items) and gathering only 6 mo of costs-specific follow-up data for MDR TB patients.


          Despite free TB care, having TB disease was expensive for impoverished TB patients in Peru. Incurring higher relative costs was associated with adverse TB outcome. The population attributable fraction indicated that catastrophic costs and MDR TB were associated with similar proportions of adverse outcomes. Thus TB is a socioeconomic as well as infectious problem, and TB control interventions should address both the economic and clinical aspects of this disease.

          Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary

          Editors' Summary


          Caused by the infectious microbe Mycobacterium tuberculosis, tuberculosis (or TB) is a global health problem. In 2012, an estimated 8.6 million people fell ill with TB, and 1.3 million were estimated to have died because of the disease. Poverty is widely recognized as an important risk factor for TB, and developing nations shoulder a disproportionate burden of both poverty and TB disease. For example, in Lima (the capital of Peru), the incidence of TB follows the poverty map, sparing residents living in rich areas of the city while spreading among poorer residents that live in overcrowded households.

          The Peruvian government, non-profit organizations, and the World Health Organization (WHO) have extended healthcare programs to provide free diagnosis and treatment for TB and drug-resistant strains of TB in Peru, but rates of new TB cases remain high. For example, in Ventanilla (an area of 16 shantytowns located in northern Lima), the rate of infection was higher during the study period, at 162 new cases per 100,000 people per year, than the national average. About one-third of the 277,895 residents of Ventanilla live on under US$1 per day.

          Why Was This Study Done?

          Poverty increases the risks associated with contracting TB infection, but the disease also affects the most economically productive age group, and the income of TB-affected households often decreases post-diagnosis, exacerbating poverty. A recent WHO consultation report proposed a target of eradicating catastrophic costs for TB-affected families by 2035, but hidden TB-related costs remain understudied, and there is no international consensus defining catastrophic costs incurred by patients and households affected by TB. Lost income and the cost of transport are among hidden costs associated with free treatment programs; these costs and their potential impact on patients and their households are not well defined. Here the researchers sought to clarify and characterize TB-related costs and explore whether there is a relationship between the hidden costs associated with free TB treatment programs and the likelihood of completing treatment and becoming cured of TB.

          What Did the Researchers Do and Find?

          Over a seven-year period (2002–2009), the researchers recruited 876 study participants with TB diagnosed at health posts located in Ventanilla. To provide a comparative control group, a sample of 487 healthy individuals was also recruited to participate. Participants were interviewed prior to treatment, and households' TB-related direct expenses and indirect expenses (lost income attributed to TB) were recorded every 2–4 wk. Data were collected during scheduled household visits.

          TB patients were poorer than controls, and analysis of the data showed that accessing free TB care was expensive for TB patients, especially those with multi-drug-resistant (MDR) TB. Total expenses were similar pre-treatment compared to during treatment for TB patients, despite receiving free care (1.1 versus 1.2 times the same household's monthly income). Even though direct expenses (for example, costs of medical examinations and medicines other than anti-TB therapy) were lower in the poorest households, their total expenses (direct and indirect) made up a greater proportion of their household annual income: 48% for the poorest households compared to 27% in the least-poor households.

          The researchers defined costs that were equal to or above one-fifth (20%) of household annual income as catastrophic because this threshold marked the greatest association with adverse treatment outcomes such as death, abandoning treatment, failing to respond to treatment, or TB recurrence. By calculating the population attributable fraction—the proportional reduction in population adverse treatment outcomes that could occur if a risk factor was reduced to zero—the authors estimate that adverse TB outcomes explained by catastrophic costs and MDR TB were similar: 18% for catastrophic costs and 20% for MDR TB.

          What Do These Findings Mean?

          The findings of this study indicate a potential role for social protection as a means to improve TB disease control and health, as well as defining a novel, evidence-based threshold for catastrophic costs for TB-affected households of 20% or more of annual income. Addressing the economic impact of diagnosis and treatment in impoverished communities may increase the odds of curing TB.

          Study limitations included only six months of follow-up data being gathered on costs for each participant and not recording “dissavings,” such as selling of household items in response to financial shock. Because the study was observational, the authors aren't able to determine the direction of the association between catastrophic costs and TB outcome. Even so, the study indicates that TB is a socioeconomic as well as infectious problem, and that TB control interventions should address both the economic and clinical aspects of the disease.

          Additional Information

          Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at

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          Most cited references 50

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          Household catastrophic health expenditure: a multicountry analysis.

          Health policy makers have long been concerned with protecting people from the possibility that ill health will lead to catastrophic financial payments and subsequent impoverishment. Yet catastrophic expenditure is not rare. We investigated the extent of catastrophic health expenditure as a first step to developing appropriate policy responses. We used a cross-country analysis design. Data from household surveys in 59 countries were used to explore, by regression analysis, variables associated with catastrophic health expenditure. We defined expenditure as being catastrophic if a household's financial contributions to the health system exceed 40% of income remaining after subsistence needs have been met. The proportion of households facing catastrophic payments from out-of-pocket health expenses varied widely between countries. Catastrophic spending rates were highest in some countries in transition, and in certain Latin American countries. Three key preconditions for catastrophic payments were identified: the availability of health services requiring payment, low capacity to pay, and the lack of prepayment or health insurance. People, particularly in poor households, can be protected from catastrophic health expenditures by reducing a health system's reliance on out-of-pocket payments and providing more financial risk protection. Increase in the availability of health services is critical to improving health in poor countries, but this approach could raise the proportion of households facing catastrophic expenditure; risk protection policies would be especially important in this situation.
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            Catastrophe and impoverishment in paying for health care: with applications to Vietnam 1993-1998.

            This paper presents and compares two threshold approaches to measuring the fairness of health care payments, one requiring that payments do not exceed a pre-specified proportion of pre-payment income, the other that they do not drive households into poverty. We develop indices for 'catastrophe' that capture the intensity of catastrophe as well as its incidence and also allow the analyst to capture the degree to which catastrophic payments occur disproportionately among poor households. Measures of poverty impact capturing both intensity and incidence are also developed. The arguments and methods are empirically illustrated with data on out-of-pocket payments from Vietnam in 1993 and 1998. This is not an uninteresting application given that 80% of health spending in that country was paid out-of-pocket in 1998. We find that the incidence and intensity of 'catastrophic' payments - both in terms of pre-payment income as well as ability to pay - were reduced between 1993 and 1998, and that both incidence and intensity of 'catastrophe' became less concentrated among the poor. We also find that the incidence and intensity of the poverty impact of out-of-pocket payments diminished over the period in question. Finally, we find that the poverty impact of out-of-pocket payments is primarily due to poor people becoming even poorer rather than the non-poor being made poor, and that it was not expenses associated with inpatient care that increased poverty but rather non-hospital expenditures. Copyright 2003 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
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              Drivers of tuberculosis epidemics: the role of risk factors and social determinants.

              The main thrust of the World Health Organization's global tuberculosis (TB) control strategy is to ensure effective and equitable delivery of quality assured diagnosis and treatment of TB. Options for including preventive efforts have not yet been fully considered. This paper presents a narrative review of the historical and recent progress in TB control and the role of TB risk factors and social determinants. The review was conducted with a view to assess the prospects of effectively controlling TB under the current strategy, and the potential to increase epidemiological impact through additional preventive interventions. The review suggests that, while the current strategy is effective in curing patients and saving lives, the epidemiological impact has so far been less than predicted. In order to reach long-term epidemiological targets for global TB control, additional interventions to reduce peoples' vulnerability for TB may therefore be required. Risk factors that seem to be of importance at the population level include poor living and working conditions associated with high risk of TB transmission, and factors that impair the host's defence against TB infection and disease, such as HIV infection, malnutrition, smoking, diabetes, alcohol abuse, and indoor air pollution. Preventive interventions may target these factors directly or via their underlying social determinants. The identification of risk groups also helps to target strategies for early detection of people in need of TB treatment. More research is needed on the suitability, feasibility and cost-effectiveness of these intervention options.

                Author and article information

                [1 ]Innovación Por la Salud Y Desarrollo (IPSYD), Asociación Benéfica PRISMA, Lima, Perú
                [2 ]Innovation For Health And Development (IFHAD), London, United Kingdom
                [3 ]Infectious Diseases & Immunity, Imperial College London, and Wellcome Trust Imperial College Centre for Global Health Research, London, United Kingdom
                [4 ]The Monsall Infectious Diseases Unit, North Manchester General Hospital, Manchester, United Kingdom
                [5 ]Department of Infectious Disease Epidemiology, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, London, United Kingdom
                [6 ]Laboratorio de Investigación y Desarrollo, Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia, Lima, Perú
                [7 ]Policy Strategy and Innovations, Stop TB Department, World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland
                Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, United States of America
                Author notes

                CAE is a member of the Editorial Board of PLOS Medicine. All other authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

                Conceived and designed the experiments: CAE AG KZ RM. Performed the experiments: CAE AG KZ MT RM. Analyzed the data: TW AG CAE KZ MT DB. Contributed reagents/materials/analysis tools: CAE RM. Wrote the first draft of the manuscript: TW CAE AG DB. Contributed to the writing of the manuscript: TW CAE KZ AG MT DB KL. ICMJE criteria for authorship read and met: TW AG KZ MT DB KL CAE RM. Agree with manuscript results and conclusions: TW AG KZ MT DB KL CAE RM. Enrolled patients: CAE MT KZ RM.

                Role: Academic Editor
                PLoS Med
                PLoS Med
                PLoS Medicine
                Public Library of Science (San Francisco, USA )
                July 2014
                15 July 2014
                : 11
                : 7

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

                Pages: 17
                The Wellcome Trust, IFHAD, and the Joint Global Health Trials Consortium. TW was also supported by the British Infection Association with a research project primer grant. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
                Research Article
                Medicine and Health Sciences
                Clinical Epidemiology
                Infectious Disease Epidemiology
                Social Epidemiology
                Health Care
                Health Economics
                Infectious Diseases
                Infectious Disease Control
                Tropical Diseases
                Science Policy
                Science Policy and Economics
                Social Sciences
                Political Science
                Public Policy
                Poverty Reduction



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