Screening men with erectile dysfunction (ED) for cardiovascular disease could save $28.5 billion in the United States over 20 years, according to American researchers.
The savings would substantially outweigh the cost of screening, they added.
Past research has linked ED and cardiovascular disease. In fact, for some men, ED is one of the first signs. The two conditions share many risk factors, including obesity and diabetes, which can damage blood vessels and interfere with blood flow around the body.
Normal erectile function depends on having healthy blood vessels. Often, damage to blood vessels may result in erectile dysfunction many years before cardiovascular disease becomes evident.
Screening men with ED for cardiovascular disease could help prevent more serious complications down the road.
How much money would this cost? And how much money could be saved? Researchers from the Baylor College of Medicine and Eli Lilly and Company sought to answer these questions.
Using data from eight studies, they averaged the incidence and prevalence rates of ED and cardiovascular disease and used these figures as estimates for their analysis. Costs were determined using Medicare reimbursement rates.
Overall, they calculated the following:
• Over 20 years, screening men with ED would cost approximately $2.7 billion in the United States.
• As a result, 1.1 million cardiovascular events could be avoided during those 20 years, a saving of $21.3 billion.
• Similarly there would be an estimated reduction of 1.1 million cases of ED, saving another $9.7 billion.
• Overall, the combined net savings would be $28.5 billion.
The total savings would be over 10 times the cost of screening, the authors noted.
The benefits of routine screening go beyond the monetary costs, too. Detecting cardiovascular disease early can improve quality of life for the affected men and their families. It may also reduce the amount of wages lost to illness.
“Such an approach could significantly decrease national healthcare costs and disease burden with significant societal implications,” the researchers explained.
“Based on our model, we call for a paradigm shift that moves research and treatment of ED away from merely deriving symptomatic improvement in the disease to a proactive and comprehensive view that appreciates and attempts to reverse the underlying and concurrent vascular pathology,” they added.
Their cost analysis was first published online in March in The Journal of Sexual Medicine.
The Journal of Sexual Medicine
Pastuszak, Alexander W., MD, PhD, et al.
“Erectile Dysfunction as a Marker for Cardiovascular Disease Diagnosis and Intervention: A Cost Analysis”
(Full-text. First published online: March 2, 2015)