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Measuring the Economic Burden for Patients With Vitiligo


People with vitiligo in the US face burdensome health care expenses, including expenses seemingly unrelated to the condition, according to 1 study.

Drobot Dean/AdobeStock

Drobot Dean/AdobeStock

Healthcare costs are significantly higher for patients with vitiligo than for those without the condition, according to a study published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology.1

In a retrospective database claims investigation, the study authors determined patients with vitiligo spent $7816 in additional all-cause total health care costs, and $3436 in additional vitiligo-related total healthcare costs, compared to matched controls.

For the study, a cohort analysis of the MerativeMarketScan Commercial Database, the researchers evaluated healthcare costs and healthcare resource utilization (HCRU) among US patients with vitiligo. Patients with vitiligo (n 49,512) were matched 1:2 with individuals without vitiligo (n 99,024) between January 2007 and December 2021. Outcomes included all-cause and vitiligo-related costs (in 2021 dollars) and all-cause HCRU, including mental health–related HCRU, during a 1-year postindex period, according to the report.

Costs for phototherapy or laser-based therapy accounted for an additional $235 in vitiligo-related total healthcare costs. Similarly, patients with vitiligo had significantly higher all-cause medical costs (an additional $6231) and vitiligo-related medical costs (an additional $3242).

Patients with vitiligo also had higher pharmacy costs—both all-cause (an additional $1584) and vitiligo-related (an additional $193)—did than matched controls.

The researchers noted that patients with vitiligo “incur direct costs associated with their condition through medical fees, pharmacy expenses, and out-of-pocket costs (eg, sunscreens, protective clothing, cosmetic concealers, and camouflage products),” citing previous work on this topic.2

“They may also experience indirect costs owing to psychosocial effects, loss of work productivity, and lost opportunities (eg, marriage, career choice, promotions, salary increases, or education),” they wrote.3

The researchers suggested that high health care costs for patients with vitiligo may also be explained by other comorbidities that occur among this patient population, including thyroid disease, diabetes, and alopecia areata.

Lead investigator Khaled Ezzedine, MD, PhD, said in a press release, "The healthcare costs and HCRU for patients in the US with vitiligo in this study were significantly higher than for patients without a vitiligo diagnosis.

“The economic burden was markedly higher for patients receiving treatment with systemic effects or with new mental health diagnoses than for the total vitiligo population. These findings reveal an unmet need for cost-effective treatments and highlight the importance of fully identifying the drivers of economic burden for patients with vitiligo."

Gary M. Owens, MD, who has spoken on the topic of the economic impact of vitiligo in the US, told Dermatology Times, "these authors have added to our knowledge of this disease state by doing a retrospective database analysis spanning 13 years and almost 100,000 patients. Not surprisingly, these patients, like those with other chronic illnesses, incur higher healthcare costs than matched patients without vitiligo.

"This study points out the economic burden on these patients and the continued need for more and more cost-effective treatments in the future."

The study was funded by AbbVie.

Related content

Economic Impact of Vitiligo in the United States

Revolutionizing Vitiligo Care: Dermatology Experts Offer Insights on Economic Factors

Impact of Vitiligo on the Mental Health of Patients


  1. Ezzedine K, Soliman AM, Li C, Camp HS, Pandya AG. Economic burden among patients with vitiligo in the United States: a retrospective database claims study. J Invest Dermatol. September 20,2023. DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jid.2023.08.025
  2. Valle Y, Korobko I, Sigova J. Patient-reported outcomes: a 5-year-long study reveals previously unreported therapeutic, demographic, socio-economic, and other correlations in vitiligo. Dermatol Ther. 2018;31e12620
  3. American Academy of Dermatology. Vitiligo by the numbers. https://assets.ctfassets.net/1ny4yoiyrqia/7yj1FAygyZGv3ygFyW6Oeq/578d340140f1b6f915cd19844e5fb6ee/AAD-BSD-Vitiligo.pdf. Accessed February 1, 2024.
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