1. Lantis, John C. II MD
  2. Boone, Deva MD
  3. Gendics, Cindy RN
  4. Todd, George MD


INTRODUCTION: The 2-year cost of a new diabetic foot ulcer (DFU) is estimated to be $27,987. These costs are thought to be secondary to hospitalization, amputation, and the duration of care. Treatments that accelerate rapid and complete healing of DFUs reduce the need for hospitalization, thus reducing the costs of care. One of the therapies previously shown to lead to more rapid and complete wound healing of DFUs is recombinant human platelet-derived growth factor (rhPDGF). Many centers, however, do not initiate rhPDGF therapy, based on patient cost issues. Therefore, many centers reserve a potentially cost-saving therapy as a second- or third-line therapy. The goal of the authors' analysis was to examine the actual cost to patients of a policy of initiating rhPDGF as the initial therapy for appropriately debrided DFUs.


METHODS: A 12-month retrospective analysis of all patients presenting to a tertiary care referral wound practice with the diagnosis of DFUs was performed. The algorithm the authors followed specified that all wounds of patients with an ankle brachial index of greater than 0.7 and a diagnosis of DFUs (that were not enrolled in a research protocol) were debrided widely (ie, all wounds were debrided sharply with a 45-degree bevel on the border and the bases of the wounds were sharply debrided to a clean granular base), provided off-loading, and initiated on rhPDGF at the patients' first center visit. The patient payer mix and average cost-per-patient per year were analyzed, and the average number of tubes of rhPDGF was recorded.


RESULTS: There were 121 patients with the diagnosis of DFUs, representing 766 visits. A total of 187 tubes of rhPDGF were prescribed for these 121 patients over the course of 12 months. There was an average use of 1.54 tubes per patient. The primary payer mix was Medicare, 44%; Medicaid, 27%; and private-payer mix, 29%, representing 10 companies. The average patient cost per tube was $28, the average cost for Medicare was $25 (many with secondary payers, as data predate 2006 Medicare D), Medicaid was $2, and private insurance was $71. Therefore, the average patient cost per course of therapy was $42.


DISCUSSION: The average cost to patients with prescription benefits for a course of rhPDGF therapy, over a diverse and representative patient mix, is less than $50 in an inner-city tertiary care facility. Thus, patient cost alone should not provide a barrier to initiating active therapy in the form of rhPDGF to the patient presenting with a DFU. This early initiation could potentially lead to lower overall health costs by improving wound-healing outcomes.