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Columnist Levin: $24-Billion Savings through Supplement Interventions Says Lewin Group PDF Print E-mail
Written by John Weeks   

Columnist Levin:  $24-Billion Savings through Supplement Interventions Says Lewin Group

Summary: Integrator columnist Michael Levin recently had occasion to read a series of reports, prepared by the internationally-known health care consulting firm, The Lewin Group. The subject: possible cost impact of pro-actively using a few dietary supplement interventions for a handful of conditions. The outcomes were compelling. Levin argues that this kind of work, funded by the dietary supplement industry, exemplifies forward thinking collaborative effort needed to advance the integrative and natural health fields. The story of this strategic funding will be familiar to chiropractic ...
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Michael Levin, Health Business Strategies
Last week, I had an opportunity to participate in a
Samueli Institute event in which Ian Coulter, PhD, spoke on some new directions for developing cost outcomes for integrative practices. Coulter is a researcher who splits his time between a vice presidency for integrative medicine with the Samueli Institute, and a position as a senior analyst with the Rand Corporation. Coulter reminded us, in the course of his presentation, that the 1992 Rand study which proved a significant breakthrough for spinal manipulation was funded, in fact, by the chiropractic profession.

I returned to this submission from Integrator columnist Michael Levin. The subject is a study by a well-known, international consulting group, looking at dietary supplement, and funded by an industry organization. Levin argues that this collaboration exemplifies what needs to be done to develop interest in the kind of cost benefits which may come from appropriate complementary and integrative interventions.

Research on Dietary Supplement Health Impacts and Cost Offsets:
> $24 Billion Savings

- Michael D. Levin, Health Business Strategies
Unlike other integrative medicine stakeholders, the dietary supplement industry raised sufficient monies to fund important research into health impacts and cost-offsets associated with certain nutritional interventions.

The expert team hired to study the economic impacts of these nutritional interventions was The Lewin Group The Lewin Group is a premier national health care and human services policy research group. Other clients of the Lewin Group include governments, industries and associations. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) used the Lewin Group for some of his healthcare policy initiatives. The Lewin Group notes on its site that it was:
"...  commissioned by the Dietary Supplement Education Alliance to (1) critically review the research literature for two dietary supplements for which an association has been shown between intake of the supplement and reduced risk of a disease that can lead to a loss of an older person's independence, and (2) develop estimates of potential health care savings that could result from daily use of the supplement. Supplement/disease combinations in this study are omega-3 fatty acids and coronary heart disease, and lutein/zeaxanthin and age-related macular degeneration."

The Lewin Group estimated that the total potential healthcare savings for the dietary supplement interventions studied to be approximately $24 billion over five years.

Though these reports - I've read them - were commissioned by the Dietary Supplement Education Alliance (DSEA) and funded largely by industry, the detailed analysis appears both exhaustive and objective. The following excerpts from their 2007 press release cite key study findings:

  • Calcium with vitamin D:  Appropriate use of calcium with Vitamin D for the Medicare population shows potential avoidance of approximately 776,000 hospitalizations for hip fractures over five years, as well as avoidance of stays in skilled nursing facilities for some proportion of patients. The five-year (2008-2012) estimated net cost associated with avoidable hospitalization for hip fracture is approximately $16.1 billion.

  • Folic Acid:  If just 11.3 million of the 44 million American women who are of childbearing age and not taking folic acid, began taking 400 mcg. of folic acid on a daily basis neural tube defects could be prevented in 600 babies, saving as much as $344,700,000 in the first year. Over five years, taking into account the cost of the supplement, $1.4 billion could potentially be saved.
  "This is an excellent example
of an industry pulling together
to fund research into health
impacts and cost-offsets."

-  Michael Levin

  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids:  The estimate of the potential five-year savings in health care expenditures resulting from a reduction in the occurrence of coronary heart disease (CHD) among the population over age 65 through daily intake of approximately 1800 mg of omega-3 is $3.2 billion.  Approximately 374,301 hospitalizations and associated physician fees due to CHD could be avoided.”

  • Lutein with zeaxanthin:  Through daily intake of 6-10 mg of lutein with zeaxanthin, it is estimated that $3.6 billion could be saved over 5 years by helping people with age related macular degeneration avoid dependency. Across the five-year period, approximately 190,927 individuals could avoid the transition to dependence either in the community or a nursing facility that would accompany a loss of central vision resulting from advanced AMD.

A DSEA representative concluded: "The impressive results of the study provide clear evidence of the benefit of dietary supplements. As an industry, it is important that we fund studies like this and publicize results, so that consumers and legislators realize the value of supplements.”This is an excellent example of an industry pulling together to fund research into health impacts and cost-offsets. Doing this type of work provides economic basis for meaningful discussions concerning insurance and reimbursement, both of which are needed to penetrate large populations. Hopefully, these research initiatives will continue, and we will soon see similar research initiatives from other stakeholder groups. Doing so can only advance our mission to improve the public health while reducing healthcare costs.

Update: On June 10, 2008, the DSEA announced their merger with the Natural Products Foundation, a 501 (c) 3 industry-supported organization designed to “enhance and promote the integrity of natural products through quality, science and education." This bodes well for continued research far into the future.

Michael D. Levin
Health Business Strategies
12042 SE Sunnyside Road
Clackamas, OR  97015
503-753-3568 (direct)
503-698-7565 (fax)

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