Allergy Shots Save Money!

Allergy shots are commonly known in the medical community as immunotherapy. They are one of (if not the) most effective treatments for allergic rhinitis (hay fever), allergic asthma and  flying insect allergy. There are some data indicating that immunotherapy might be effective for atopic dermatitis (eczema) when the patient’s disease is associated with environmental allergen sensitivity. Treatment with allergy shots can reduce your need for medications, make asthma easier to control and give relief from allergy and sinus symptoms. In children, allergy shots may reduce the risk of developing asthma later in life and reduce the risk of developing additional allergies. So what does this mean in terms of health care costs? Are the medical benefits of shots outweighed by its expense?

In a 7-year analysis looking back in time of children newly diagnosed as having nasal allergies, investigators compared medical costs incurred during the 6 months before starting shots to the costs for these same children that were incurred during the 6 months after completion (J Allergy Clin Immunol 2008 Jan;121(1) 227-32) . The per-patient 6-month total health care costs were significantly lower in the 6-month period after completion compared to the time preceding the start of shots. Interestingly, in this study only 16% of patients completed the recommended three to five years of treatment. Even with that low completion rate, a significant savings was seen.

The same investigators subsequently conducted a similar 10-year study (Ann Allergy Asthma Immunolol 2010 Jan;104(1):79-85). One of the main differences in this study is that they compared the 18 month health care costs of a group of patients receiving shots to a similar group that did not. Children who received shots incurred significantly lower per-patient health care costs compared to the children who were treated with medications alone. 

A parallel study has been conducted with adults and similar, significant reductions in 18-month health care costs have been reported. In these patients the cost savings was approximately 41%! Allergy shots are not only the most effective treatment for certain allergic diseases, but they are also more cost effective than medications alone. That is a win-win situation!