The cost and benefit of probiotic use
There is a substantial body of literature showing that probiotic use can have beneficial effects on health. In general, probiotics tend to reduce risk or severity of disease. Here, an overview is given of studies that have calculated to cost-benefit of probiotic use. All studies indicate a positive financial effect of probiotic use. However, most studies take into account only the effect of probiotic use on the direct costs. Furthermore, many of the reviewed studies base the size of the probiotic effect on a single study. Only few studies aimed to calculate both direct and indirect costs and base the effect size on a systematic review/meta-analysis. Thus, although an overall beneficial economic effect is predicted for the use of probiotics on various health conditions, more high quality studies are required in this area.
As the readership of this journal knows, probiotics are defined as live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host (1).
That probiotics indeed do have health benefits is documented by numerous randomised, double blind, placebo controlled, trials and also by the many systematic reviews and meta-analyses that have been published. In general, probiotics do not prevent disease but rather reduce risk. So, the ‘success rate’ needs to be taken into account. Assuming a certain effect size and efficacy of the consumption of probiotics one can calculate the costs of the probiotic consumption and the estimated potential savings that are associated with this consumption. This way it is possible to estimate the economic impact of the consumption of probiotics. This does, of course, not take into account any influence the probiotics may have on quality of life. Main factors that influence the potential economic benefit of probiotic use are mentioned in Table 1.
This way of calculating cost-benefit; health economics, has long been used for the economic evaluation of health care strat ...