Study Considers Cost and Benefit of Supplementation for Cancer Survivors

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West Hills, CA—A study published in Cancers found that adequate nutrition via diet and supplements provides a cost-effective strategy for achieving optimum health and improved quality of life (QOL) for cancer survivors, who are at risk for malnutrition from their disease and its treatment.

Led by Pharmavite, makers of Nature Made supplements, the study used data obtained from the 2011-2012 cycle of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), a nationally representative, cross-sectional survey conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics, used to monitor the health and nutritional status of non-institutionalized individuals in the United States. All adults aged 20 years and older who answered yes to having ever been told they had cancer, who answered both days of dietary intake questionnaires, were included, for a final weighted sample of 14,364,981. That sample was representative of the national cancer survivor population: Average age of 61 years, 85% white, 52% male, and 94% insured.

Costs of supplements were estimated using online retail prices for leading supplement brands including Nature Made, as well as private labels from CVS, Walmart, and Walgreens, as of June 2020. Hospitalization cost was estimated from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, which provides estimates of healthcare use, expenditures, source of payment, and health insurance coverage. The study also estimated quality adjusted life years (QALY), looking to see if there was an improvement in that as well.

The findings: Hospitalization rates for supplement users was 12%, compared to a 21% hospitalization rate for non-users, with a hospitalization cost of $4,030. Supplementation was associated with an additional 0.48 QALYs. After six years of supplement use, supplementation cost less than hospitalization.

Additional research is needed to determine the effects of specific nutrient doses and supplementation on long-term health outcomes per cancer type.

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“While achieving adequate nutrition through food remains the gold standard, filling key nutrient gaps through food alone continues to present as a challenge for the larger population, let alone people whose cancer impacts the ability to consume and absorb nutrients, even after treatments subside,” said Dr. Susan Mitmesser, VP, Science & Technology, Pharmavite. “This study reveals the need for dietary supplementation to be part of the post-treatment conversation between patients and their health care providers.”