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Cost Eff Resour Alloc. 2003 Aug 29;1(1):7.

Economic evaluation of zinc and copper use in treating acute diarrhea in children: A randomized controlled trial.

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1
Clinical Epidemiology Unit, Indira Gandhi Medical College, Central Avenue, Nagpur India. archana_patel@vsnl.com

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

The therapeutic effects of zinc and copper in reducing diarrheal morbidity have important cost implications. This health services research study evaluated the cost of treating a child with acute diarrhea in the hospital, the impact of micronutrient supplementation on the mean predicted costs and its cost-effectiveness as compared to using only standard oral rehydration solution (ORS), from the patient's and government's (providers) perspective.

METHODS:

Children aged 6 months to 59 months with acute diarrhea were randomly assigned to receive either the intervention or control. The intervention was a daily dose of 40 mg of zinc sulfate and 5 mg of copper sulfate powder dissolved in a liter of standard ORS (n = 102). The control was 50 mg of standard ORS powder dissolved in a liter of standard ORS (n = 98). The cost measures were the total mean cost of treating acute diarrhea, which included the direct medical, the direct non-medical and the indirect costs. The effectiveness measures were the probability of diarrhea lasting leq; 4 days, the disability adjusted life years (DALYs) and mortality.

RESULTS:

The mean total cost of treating a child with acute diarrhea was US $14 of which the government incurred an expenditure of 66%. The factors that increased the total were the number of stools before admission (p = 0.01), fever (p = 0.01), increasing grade of dehydration (p = 0.00), use of antibiotics (p = 0.00), use of intra-venous fluids (p = 0.00), hours taken to rehydrate a child (p = 0.00), the amount of oral rehydration fluid used (p = 0.00), presence of any complications (p = 0.00) and the hospital stay (p = 0.00). The supplemented group had a 8% lower cost of treating acute diarrhea, their cost per unit health (diarrhea lasting leq; 4 days) was 24% less and the incremental cost-effectiveness ratio indicated cost savings (in Rupees) with the intervention [-452; 95%CI (-11306, 3410)]. However these differences failed to reach conventional levels of significance.

CONCLUSION:

An emphasis on the costs and economic benefits of an alternative therapy is an important aspect of health services research. The cost savings and the attractive cost-effectiveness indicates the need to further assess the role of micronutrients such as zinc and copper in the treatment of acute diarrhea in a larger and more varied population.

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