The Cost Of Silence- new report shows economic impact of Cardiovascular Disease in Asia-Pacific 

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The report found a lack of awareness among the Asian population of the risks and symptoms of CVD

Amgen and The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) today released a comprehensive new report entitled, “The Cost of Silence: Cardiovascular disease in Asia.” The report, which was developed by EIU and sponsored by Amgen, estimates that in the eight Asian economies studied, $ 53 billion of the total costs of primary ischaemic heart disease (IHD) and stroke are attributable to four modifiable risk factors: smoking, hypertension, obesity and high cholesterol.

The white paper, which examines China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore and Thailand, was launched over a media roundtable presented by The Economist’s Rashmi Dalai, Managing Editor; and Amgen’s Penny Wan, Regional Vice-President and General Manager, JAPAC.

“Silent” risk factors — high cholesterol and hypertension —   are costing governments and health agencies across Asia billions of dollars every year, which together with smoking and obesity, threaten the sustainability of healthcare systems. The biggest challenge with these silent risk factors is that individuals often have little knowledge of their underlying risks until symptoms become more pronounced, and the illnesses more advanced.

In addition, the risks of cardiovascular disease (CVD), the general term for conditions affecting the heart or blood vessels, are more elevated among older populations; as a result, countries with aging demographics face even greater challenges. This is a major issue in Asia, which is rapidly aging: in 2016 approximately 12.4 per cent of Asia’s population was 60 years of age or older.

[i] This proportion is projected to increase to more than a quarter by 2050.

[ii] How countries in the region address the CVD burden has enormous economic and human implications. For example, the recurrence rates for people suffering from a CVD event are high. Prioritising at-risk groups, where the cost for treatment can be significant, will help drive positive impact on CVD cost management.

CVD is already the leading cause of death globally and it is estimated that half the cases of CVD occur in Asia

[iii]. The economic burdens of these conditions are rising dramatically, as the report found:
The cost of ischemic heart disease and stroke is $ 24.3 billion in Japan and $ 21.7 billion in China, top 2 amongst the 8 markets.

China has the highest stroke incidence rate at 403 cases per 100,000, according to the latest WHO data from 2016. IHD incidence is highest in Japan and Hong Kong, with approximately 396 cases and 365 cases per 100,000 respectively in 2016.

Asian heart failure patients spend between 5 and 12.5 days in hospital, with per cent to 15 per cent readmitted within 30 days.

Early retirement and disability caused by CVD has the potential to erode tax bases and put pressure on national budgets.

Hypertension is the risk factor that contributes the highest cost, with an estimated total of $18 billion annually. Across the other estimated annual risk factor costs, high cholesterol contributes $15 billion.

In addition, the report found a lack of awareness among the Asian population of the risks and symptoms of CVD, an issue that has serious health and economic consequences. The danger from lack of awareness and poor information can lead patients to make bad decisions, such as discontinuing treatments.

The consequences of insufficient awareness are also reflected by patients failing to take steps to treat CVD in its early stages. If early warning signs were addressed, treatments would be easier and cheaper. Lifestyle changes and medications are convenient and cost-effective ways to manage CVD and they reduce the chance of life threatening incidences. However, most importantly, by creating more awareness of early symptoms and diagnosing silent risks, it is possible to prevent illnesses such as CVD.