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BMC Health Serv Res. 2020 Mar 6;20(1):183. doi: 10.1186/s12913-020-5054-5.

Prevalence, characteristics, and costs of diagnosed homocystinuria, elevated homocysteine, and phenylketonuria in the United States: a retrospective claims-based comparison.

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Orphan Technologies, 430 Bedford St, Lexington, MA, 02420, USA.
Orphan Technologies, 430 Bedford St, Lexington, MA, 02420, USA.
LapidusData Inc, 321 NE 4th St, Oklahoma City, OK, 73104, USA.
IBM Watson Health, 75 Binney St, Cambridge, MA, 02142, USA.



Classical homocystinuria (HCU), an inborn error of homocysteine metabolism, has previously been estimated to affect approximately 1 in 100,000-200,000 people in the United States (US). HCU is poorly detected by newborn screening, resulting in underestimates of its prevalence. This study compared characteristics, healthcare use and costs, and projected prevalence between patients with diagnosed HCU, elevated total homocysteine (tHcy), and diagnosed phenylketonuria (PKU).


Patients in the MarketScan® Research Databases were identified with strictly-defined HCU (> 2 diagnoses, including 1 ICD-10), broadly-defined HCU (> 1 ICD-10), elevated tHcy (> 20 μmol/L) without an HCU diagnosis, or > 1 ICD-9/ICD-10 PKU diagnosis during 1/1/2010-12/31/2016 (first qualifying claim = index). Demographics and healthcare utilization and costs per patient per month (PPPM) were compared between all cohorts, frequencies of comorbidities and medications were compared between HCU and elevated tHcy patients, and healthcare provider types were assessed among HCU patients. The prevalence of patients meeting each cohort definition was projected to the United States (US) population.


Patients with strictly-defined (N = 2450) and broadly-defined (N = 6613) HCU, and with elevated tHcy (N = 2017), were significantly older than PKU patients (N = 5120) (57 vs. 56 vs. 53 vs. 18 years; p < 0.05). Vitamin D deficiency, hyperlipidemia, folic acid/B vitamins, and lipid-lowering medications, among others, were more common among diagnosed HCU patients vs. those with elevated tHcy (all p < 0.05). Rates of healthcare utilization were generally higher among HCU and elevated tHcy patients, compared to PKU, though total healthcare costs were similar between groups. Most HCU patients (~ 38%) received their index diagnosis from a primary care physician; very few (~ 1%) had any claim from a geneticist during their enrollment. The age-adjusted national prevalence of HCU was projected at 31,162 (95% CI: 30,411 - 31,913; ~ 1 in 10,000 of the US population) using the broad definition.


The actual prevalence of HCU may be > 10 times prior estimates, at 1 in 10,000 in the US, and this study suggests that HCU is not being diagnosed until later in life. Improvements to newborn screening, detection in young children, and physician education regarding HCU among patients may be necessary to alleviate the burden of this genetic disease.


Comorbidities; Costs; Homocysteine; Homocystinuria; Medications; Phenylketonuria; Prevalence; Utilization

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