Untreated Hot Flashes Cost US $14 Billion

Hot flashes are a nuisance. But they may also be keeping your from working at your peak, and that’s bad for you and bad for business.

Hot flashes are just a nuisance, right? If you think that, you would be very wrong. A recent study by Dr. Phil Sarrel and colleagues looked at the cost of untreated hot flashes in 500,000 menopausal women working at Fortune 500 companies or women who were there spouses, dependents or retirees. All had insurance and so their diagnosis and treatment and numbers of visits to the doctor between 1999-2011 could be traced through their insurance claims.

Of these half million women, 250,000 were having their hot flashes treated and the other 250,000 with hot flashes were not treated. During the 12-month follow-up of the study, women with untreated hot flashes had significantly higher healthcare utilization, work loss and cost burden with over 1.5 million outpatient visits during the 1-year period of the study. That is 82% more visits than the women with treated hot flashes. The incremental direct cost of the hot flashes totaled over $339.5 million. The indirect cost of the hot flashes from lost work estimated to be over $28.6 million over that same one-year period.

There are about 9 million postmenopausal women in the United States with severe untreated hot flashes that would likely benefit by having them treated. If the costs associated with the 250,000 women in this study were extrapolated to include all these women, the cost of untreated hot flashes in the United States would be over $12 billion.

These numbers reflect the increased number of women who have avoided estrogen due to fears resulting from the 2002 Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) study. Since women make up half the work force and in the United States hold more than half of the high-paying management and professional positions, hot flashes are much more than a nuisance; they are a symptom that women must discuss with their doctors at annual exams and find ways of treating. Hot flashes are much more than just a nuisance.

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