How Big a Problem Is Atopic Dermatitis? NEA Asks

In a prelude to establishing research priorities to help patients with atopic dermatitis, the National Eczema Association is launching a Burden of Disease Audit.

An initiative by the National Eczema Association (NEA) will establish research priorities to define the impact on quality of life and the economic burden of atopic dermatitis (AD), according to an announcement by the NEA posted on-line June 15 in JAMA Dermatology.

Aaron Drucker, MD, and colleagues in the Department of Dermatology, Warren Alpert Medical School, Brown University, Providence,RI, described the areas that may warrant new research.

"Specific areas of interest determined by the NEA and its advisors were quality of life and, specifically, its relationship with itch, pain, sleep, self-esteem, marital status and stability, social life, and time spent managing AD and the economic burden and academic and occupational impacts of AD," they related.

The NEA Burden of Disease Audit, to be completed and published later this year, will identify important gaps in the literature, Drucker and colleagues indicate. They note, for example, that while the effort of caregivers in managing the disease in children has been studied, few studies have examined the impact of AD on partners and families of adults with the disease.

In another example, the NEA Advisory Committee encountered studies which assessed the impact of AD on sleep and its effect on quality of life, but found no longitudinal studies that examined how sleep patterns change over time and with changes in the severity of the disease.

An updated study of the economic impact of AD is also required, according to Drucker and colleagues. The last comprehensive study was based on data from 2004, they point out, and it conservatively estimated a 5 percent prevalence, it omitted the cost of over-the-counter products, and it only calculated lost work and wages from time spent in healthcare settings.

In addition to anticipating that current costs of the disease will exceed the previous estimates, Drucker and colleagues point out the importance of determining cost, and cost-effectiveness of new medication developments.

"As new medications are introduced to target moderate to severe AD, studies examining the financial impact of the disease stratified by disease severity are important, and are currently inadequate," they declared.