In South Africa, patients with multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) are hospitalised from MDR-TB treatment initiation until culture conversion. Although MDR-TB accounts for <3% of incident TB in South Africa, 55% of the public sector TB budget is spent on MDR-TB. To inform new strategies for MDR-TB management, we estimated the per-patient cost (USD 2011) of inpatient MDR-TB treatment.
All resources used by patients admitted to the MDR-TB hospital with confirmed MDR-TB from March 2009 to February 2010 were abstracted from patient records for up to 12 months after initial admission or until the earliest of final discharge, abscondment or death. Costs of hospital stay/ day were estimated from hospital expenditure records and costs for drugs, laboratory tests, radiography and surgery from public sector sources. 133 patients met study inclusion criteria of whom 121 had complete cost records.
By 12 months, 86% were discharged with culture conversion, 8% died in hospital, 2% were still admitted, and 3% had absconded. The mean hospital stay was 105 days. The mean total cost per patient was $17 164, of which 95% were hospitalisation costs (buildings, staff, etc.) and
2% each for MDR-TB drugs ($380); TB laboratory tests, including drug susceptibility testing ($236); and other costs.
The inpatient cost per patient treated for MDR-TB is more than 40 times the cost of treating drug-susceptible TB in South Africa. There is potential for substantial cost savings from improved management of drug-susceptible TB and shifting to a model of decentralised, outpatient MDR-treatment.