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Benef Microbes. 2012 Sep;3(3):189-94. doi: 10.3920/BM2012.0007.

Cost/benefit of synbiotics in acute infectious gastroenteritis: spend to save.

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Department of Pediatrics, Universitair KinderZiekenhuis Brussel, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Laarbeeklaan 101, 1090 Brussels, Belgium.


The cost/benefit ratio of probiotics in the ambulatory treatment of acute infectious gastro-enteritis with or without a synbiotic food supplement (containing fructo-oligosaccharides and probiotic strains of Streptoccoccus thermophilus, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium lactis and Bifidobacterium infantis) has been studied. 111 children (median age 37 and 43 months for the synbiotic and placebo group, respectively) with acute infectious gastroenteritis were included in a randomised, prospective placebo-controlled trial performed in primary health care. All children were treated with an oral rehydration solution and with the synbiotic food supplement (n=57) or placebo (n=54). Physicians were allowed to prescribe additional medication according to what they considered as 'necessary'. Cost of add-on medication and total healthcare cost were calculated. Median duration of diarrhoea was 1 day shorter (95% confidence interval -0.6 to -1.9 days) in the symbiotic than in the placebo group (P<0.005). Significantly more concomitant medication (antibiotics, antipyretics, antiemetics) was prescribed in the placebo group (39 prescriptions in 28 patients) compared to the synbiotic group (12 prescriptions in 7 patients) (P<0.001). The difference was most striking for antiemetics: 28 vs. 5 prescriptions. The cost of add-on medication in the placebo group was evaluated at € 4.04/patient (median 4.97 (interquartile (IQ) 25-75: 0-4.97)) vs. € 1.13 /patient in the synbiotic arm (P<0.001). If the cost of the synbiotic is considered, median cost raised to € 7.15/patient (IQ 25-75: 7.15-7.15) (P<0.001). The extra consultations needed to prescribe the concomitant medication resulted in a higher health care cost in the placebo group (€ 14.41 vs. € 10.74/patient, P<0.001). Synbiotic food supplementation resulted in a 24 h earlier normalisation of stool consistency. Although use of the synbiotic supplementation increased cost, add-on medication and extra consultations were reduced, resulting in a reduction of health care cost of 25%.

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