Background. Lyme borreliosis (LB) is the most common tick-borne disease in Europe and North America, yet its economic burden remains largely unknown. This study aimed to estimate the economic cost associated with the different clinical manifestations of LB in Belgium.
Methods. An incidence approach and societal perspective were used to estimate the total cost-of-illness for LB in Belgium. Costs were calculated for patients with erythema migrans (EM) or disseminated/late LB, including patients who developed post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome (PTLDS). Direct medical, direct non-medical (transportation & paid help) and indirect non-medical costs (productivity losses) were included in the analysis. Ambulatory cost data were collected through a prospective cohort study from June 2016 to March 2020, in which patients with LB were followed up 6 to 12 months after diagnosis. Hospitalization costs were retrieved from the Minimal Clinical Data registry, a mandatory registry for all Belgian hospitals, linked to the Minimal Financial Data registry. Costs were expressed in 2019 euros.
Results. The total annual cost associated with clinical manifestations of LB in Belgium was estimated at €5.59 million (95% UI 3.82–7.98). Of these, €3.44 million (95% UI 2.05–5.48) or 62% was related to disseminated/late LB diagnoses and €2.15 million (95% UI 1.30–3.26) to EM. In general, direct medical costs and productivity losses accounted for 49.8% and 46.4% of the total costs, respectively, while direct non-medical costs accounted for only 3.8%. The estimated mean costs were €193 per EM patient and €5,148 per disseminated/late LB patient. While patients with PTLDS seemed to have somewhat higher costs compared to patients without PTLDS, the number of patients was too small to have representative estimates.
Conclusions. We estimate the total annual direct medical costs, direct non-medical and indirect non-medical costs associated with LB to exceed €5.5 million per year, almost evenly distributed between EM (40%) and disseminated/late LB (60%). EM costs 26 times less per patient but occurs also 16 times more frequently than disseminated/late LB. The cost burden remains limited by comparison to other infectious diseases due to the relative lower incidence.