‘Tremendous economic savings’: Probiotics could save $100 million in healthcare costs in Canada

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

© iStock / goa_novi
© iStock / goa_novi

Related tags Influenza Common cold

Using probiotics to prevent and reduce the severity and duration of respiratory infections could reduce healthcare costs in Canada by as much as Can$100 million, says a new analysis.

Data published in PLOS One​indicated that probiotic consumption could result in up to 82,000 fewer doses of antibiotics, and reduce absenteeism by as much as 500,000 days in the general population of Canada.

“This is the first comprehensive modeling of its type for Canada, and emphasizes the need for the country to look at alternative means to promote health,”​ explained Gregor Reid, Professor of Microbiology and Immunology at Western University in Ontario and co-author on the paper.

“This is only one marker, but if gut, urogenital, infant and other health issues were included, the savings to Canada could be extremely large.”


The study used the same microsimulation model used to predict cost savings in the French population, published in 2015 (Lenoir-Wijnkoop et al. PLoS One, 10(4):e0122765. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0122765​), which predicted potential healthcare savings of €38 million (US$40 million).

“Canada could save $100 million on healthcare costs if people used probiotics to prevent and treat (reduce severity and duration) respiratory infections, even if people took the flu shot and over-the-counter medications,”​ said Prof Ried. “There are several probiotics that can be used as shown on the 2016 Clinical Guide to Probiotic Supplements​.”

Study details

RTIs in numbers

5–20% of the population will have at least one RTI every year 
In the US, this leads to: 
31.4 million outpatient visits, 
3.1 million hospitalized days, 
41,000 deaths every year.

In Canada, up to 17,000 hospitalizations & 3,500 deaths are attributed to flu every year. 

The authors, led by Irene Lenoir-Wijnkoop from Utrecht University in The Netherlands, used 35,540 virtual healthy individuals as representative of the Canadian population in terms of age and gender. This sample was 1/1000 of the total 35 million population. The model included data about the flu vaccination status in Canada.

Taking the annual incidence of Respiratory Tract Infections (RTIs) in the general population of 2.1%, the model revealed that probiotic use could save between 573,000 and 2.3 million RTI-days.

This would translate into 52,000 to 84,000 fewer antibiotic courses and 330,000 to 500,000 sick-leave days, said the researchers.

From the healthcare payer perspective, this leads to costs reductions of Can$1.3-8.9 million and Can$61.2–99.7 million when including losses in productivity. Because data on common colds were not available for Canada, and the modeling only included influenza-like-illness (ILI), the results are conservative.

“This analysis shows that increasing probiotic consumption is likely to have substantial positive consequences, not only on the healthcare system, but also on work absenteeism of sick employees per se as well as those absent because of their children with respiratory illness,” ​wrote Lenoir-Wijnkoop and her co-authors.

“This is meaningful, as approximately one third of employees working in an open office plan confirm their working environment puts them at increased risk of illness due to the close and open contact with colleagues. The impact of RTI on work presenteeism (reduced on-the-job productivity due to RTI symptoms) could be another field of research to cover.”

Source: PLOS One
Published online, doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0166232
“The Clinical and Economic Impact of Probiotics Consumption on Respiratory Tract Infections: Projections for Canada”
Authors: I. Lenoir-Wijnkoop, L. Gerlier, D. Roy, G. Reid

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