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Burden of COPD in a government health care system: a retrospective observational study using data from the US Veterans Affairs population.

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Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX, USA. <>



Health care utilization and costs among US veterans with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) were compared with those in veterans without COPD.


A cohort of veterans with COPD was matched for age, sex, race, and index fiscal year to a cohort of veterans without COPD (controls) using data from the Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN) 16 from 10/1/1997 to 9/30/2004. Annual total and respiratory-related health care service utilization, costs of care, comorbidities, and respiratory medication use at the time of diagnosis were assessed.


A total of 59,906 patients with COPD were identified for a 7-year period prevalence of 8.2%, or 82 per 1000 population. Patients with COPD compared with controls had significantly higher all-cause and respiratory-related inpatient and outpatient health care utilization for every parameter examined including mean numbers of physician encounters, other outpatient encounters, emergency room visits, acute inpatient discharges, total bed days of care, and percentage of patients with any emergency room visits or any acute inpatient discharge. Patients with COPD had statistically significantly higher mean outpatient, inpatient, pharmacy, and total costs than the control group. The mean Charlson comorbidity index in patients with COPD was 1 point higher than in controls (2.85 versus 1.84, P < 0.001). 60% of COPD patients were prescribed medications recommended in treatment guidelines at diagnosis.


Veterans with COPD compared with those without COPD suffer a tremendous disease burden manifested by higher rates of all-cause and respiratory-related health care utilization and costs and a high prevalence of comorbidities. Furthermore, COPD patients do not receive appropriate treatment for their disease on diagnosis.


VA; burden of illness; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD); costs; economic burden; health care utilization; respiratory medicine; veterans

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