Background: This retrospective observational study aimed at describing patients on hemodialysis with/without uremic pruritus (UP), their healthcare resource consumption and costs from the perspective of the Italian National Health Service (INHS).
Methods: Through the cross-linkage of the healthcare administrative data collected in the ReS (Ricerca e Salute) database from 2015 to 2017, patients undergoing in-hospital/outpatient hemodialysis (index date) for ≥2 years were selected. After the exclusion of subjects with other causes of pruritus, UP/non-UP cohorts were created based on the presence/absence of UP-related treatment supplies and characterized. Treatments, hospitalizations and costs were analyzed.
Results: Of 1239 patients on hemodialysis for ≥2 years (20.2% of all hemodialysis subjects), 218 (17.6%) were affected by UP. Both cohorts were mostly males and elderly. One year before and after the index date, 58.1% and 65.1% of UP patients received UP-related treatments, of which >50% were treated with antihistamines (mostly cetirizine), 10% gabapentin and 1.4% ultraviolet light therapy. The mean annual overall cost per patient with/without UP was €37,065/€35,988. Outpatient specialist services accounted for 80% (>77% hemodialysis), hospitalizations for 10% (>60% hemodialysis).
Conclusions: Though the prevalence of UP and related healthcare costs charged to the INHS were underestimated, the burden of UP was not negligible. High-efficiency dialytic therapies performed to UP patients seemed to largely weigh on the overall mean annual cost. The availability of specific and effective treatments for UP might offer cost and healthcare offsets.
Keywords: chronic kidney disease, pruritus, public health practice, database