The present study was carried out by supplements manufacturer, Pharmavite, to examine the prevalence and cost-effectiveness of dietary supplementation in cancer patients.
Results revealed cancer survivors using DS had a significantly lower rate of hospitalisations and reported higher quality of life (QOL) compared to survivors not taking supplements, with notable incremental savings.
Researchers say: “The gold standard is to achieve adequate nutrition intake through food sources, although nutrient adequacy is not often met for a variety of reasons, including the side effects of treatment.”
Researchers performed a population-level analysis to explore the impact of long-term DS use on “quality adjusted life years”, and the potential for cost-effectiveness in a cancer population, with and without supplementation.
The cost of supplements was derived from national pharmacy databases, including single- and multi-vitamins, and estimated using online retail prices from leading brands.
The study cohort represented the national cancer survivor population (average age 61 years, 85% white, 52% male, and 94% insured).
Most had a regular healthcare provider (93.7%) and the vast majority had some form of insurance (94.4%).
More than two-thirds of the sample (68%) reported using some form of vitamin or DS within the previous 30 days.
Hospitalisation rates were used as a key marker of cancer quality of care and stood out as the main driver of cancer-related healthcare spending (aside from primary tumour resection) among cancer patients, the study authors write.
Clinical admissions for supplement users versus non-users were 12% and 21%, respectively, costing an average €3,516 ($4,030).
Supplements were associated with additional incremental costs of €1,827 ($2,094), over the remaining lifetime of survivors (on average 13 years).
Sensitivity analysis of lower and upper life expectancy thresholds (from one to 20 years) and incremental costs demonstrated that after six years of supplementation, the benefit of lower hospitalisation rates among DS users outweighs the cost of dietary supplementation.
The authors therefore assert that: “Immune-supportive supplementation may prove to be a clinically effective and important tool that is accessible via telemedicine.”
Cancer and its treatments have a serious negative impact of the body’s ability to consumer and absorb nutrients. As a result, patients and survivors are both at risk of malnutrition.Adult cancer survivors in the US currently spend around €5.9bn($6.8bn) on dietary supplements (DS) annually.
However, there are significant variations in prices and formulations and there is scant evidence on value for money.
This limits patients’ ability to make informed decisions about the pros and cons of supplements.
While their use use amongst cancer patients is common, the approach remains controversial and experts recommend caution due to possible interactions with chemotherapy.
Studies suggest the benefits of DS are dependent on factors such as cancer type and treatment, and the recommended approach to “nutritional therapy” for cancer survivors is a combination of daily food intake, dietary supplementation, and prescribed nutrition therapy.
A significant proportion of patients and survivors turn to supplements to mitigate the side-effects from cancer treatment: to improve immune function, reduce nutrition deficiencies, and prevent disease recurrence.
Despite the positive findings, study limitations render further research necessary to evaluate the role and duration of DS in cancer patients to determine the level of dose response,
The research team also recommend further study into the role of supplements on various comorbidities and the side-effects in cancer survivors, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and other metabolic disorders.
Further clarification on the mechanism of DS effects on immune system modulation is also recommended.
‘Cost-Effectiveness of Nutrient Supplementation in Cancer Survivors’
Amy Shaver et al,