FAIR Health Reports That Food Allergy Prevalence, Treatment and Costs Have Skyrocketed in Past Decade
Analysis of Health Claims Data Is Partially Funded by Food Allergy Research & Education
McLEAN, VA (Nov. 22, 2017) – Treatment of severe food allergy reactions increased by nearly 400 percent between 2007 and 2016, and laboratory services costs for diagnosing those reactions also surged during that 10-year period, growing by more than 5,000 percent. These are among the findings in a new white paper by FAIR Health, a national, independent nonprofit organization dedicated to transparency in health care costs and health insurance information.
“Food Allergy in the United States: Recent Trends and Costs – An Analysis of Private Claims Data” was published with support from Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE), the world’s largest private source of food allergy research funding. Analyzing more than 24 billion health care claims records from more than 150 million privately insured patients, the white paper offers a window on geographic and demographic trends in food allergy diagnosis and treatment in the U.S.
“Food allergy is a problem of epidemic proportions that does not receive the attention that it merits from policymakers and public health officials,” said James R. Baker, Jr., MD, CEO and chief medical officer of FARE. “We have long worked on behalf of millions of people affected by food allergy – from advocating for greater access to life-saving epinephrine to working behind the scenes to help ensure the costs of oral food challenges are more appropriately reimbursed – and we are committed to our efforts to improving the quality of life for those who live with food allergies. We supported this important work because it provides us with critically needed data providing evidence of the burden of food allergy.”
FAIR Health President Robin Gelburd explained, “Food allergy is an important issue of growing national concern. We hope that our analysis of data from FAIR Health’s vast repository of private healthcare claims provides useful information for researchers, policy makers and other healthcare stakeholders. We are grateful for FARE’s generous support in making this white paper possible.”
FAIR Health’s data from 2007-2016 show that food allergy is a serious, increasingly prevalent medical condition that generates significant medical expenses for affected families:
- The number of food allergy reactions requiring emergency treatment is up sharply over the past decade, with a 377 percent rise in individually listed medical procedures, or claim lines, associated with anaphylaxis caused by food. Anaphylaxis is a severe, potentially life-threatening allergic reaction.
- Milk allergy was associated with the highest average costs and services per patient in 2016, with annual charges exceeding $1,000 per year. Allergy to milk tends to be associated with infants and toddlers, who are often prescribed specialized formula to support their growth and nutrition.
- Peanut was the allergen most frequently associated with anaphylactic food reactions, followed by tree nuts/seeds (including sesame). Claim lines with diagnoses of anaphylactic reactions to peanut increased 445 percent and those with diagnoses of tree nut/seed anaphylaxis increased 603 percent.
- Commonly thought of as a childhood condition, food allergy can strike at any age. While patients under age 4 received more than one-quarter of the healthcare procedures associated a food allergy diagnosis, adult patients over age 18, including senior citizens, accounted for one-third of those procedures.
- More boys than girls are diagnosed with food allergy as children. In contrast, more women than men develop food allergy during adulthood.
- While previous studies have found that food allergies are more common in urban areas than in rural ones, food allergy diagnoses increased in both environments over the ten-year period, with the fastest growth in rural settings. Claim lines with food allergy diagnoses were up 110 percent in rural communities, compared to 70 percent in urban regions.
The FAIR Health white paper adds to a growing list of studies that enumerate the rapidly growing burden of food allergy for patients, families, and society. Scientists do not yet have conclusive answers about what is driving this increase. Genes and environment can influence food allergy risk, but the rising prevalence of food allergy has not yet been definitively explained. Greater awareness of food allergy, exposure to fewer germs in childhood, antibiotic use, changes in food manufacturing, and shifts in the human microbiome – the populations of microbes living in and on our bodies – are among the factors being investigated. But more research is needed to understand the contributions of these different factors, and inform strategies to reverse the trend and prevent new cases.
Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) works on behalf of the 15 million Americans with food allergies, including all those at risk for life-threatening anaphylaxis. This potentially deadly disease affects 1 in every 13 children in the U.S. – or roughly two in every classroom. FARE’s mission is to improve the quality of life and the health of individuals with food allergies, and to provide them hope through the promise of new treatments. Our work is organized around three core tenets: LIFE – support the ability of individuals with food allergies to live safe, productive lives with the respect of others through our education and advocacy initiatives; HEALTH – enhance the healthcare access of individuals with food allergies to state-of-the-art diagnosis and treatment; and HOPE – encourage and fund research in both industry and academia that promises new therapies to improve the allergic condition. For more information, please visit www.foodallergy.org and find us on Twitter@FoodAllergy, Facebook, YouTube and Pinterest.