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Last Updated: Wednesday, 22 February 2006, 00:03 GMT
Heart disease 'costs EU billions'
Heart monitor
The UK spends the highest proportion of its healthcare budget on CVD
Cardiovascular diseases - conditions affecting the heart and circulation - cost the European Union 169 billion euros in 2003, a study has found.

That translates as 230 euros for every man, woman and child in the EU, the Oxford University analysis in the European Heart Journal said.

The UK was found to spend the highest proportion of its healthcare budget on CVD of any EU country.

Heart experts said the paper underlined a need for more effective prevention.

The researchers said costs would have risen since 2003.

High blood pressure

The study, from a team at Oxford University's Health Economics Research Centre, is the first to assess the economic impact of CVD in the 25 EU member states.

Researchers obtained data from health departments, studies on the economic impact of illness on patients' working patterns and those of their carers' and others on the impact of the death of working-age adults from CVD.

The best known forms of CVD, coronary heart disease and cerebrovascular disease, accounted for nearly two thirds of all CVD deaths and 47% of costs.

The rest was attributable to other CVDs, such as high blood pressure or other forms of heart disease.

Overall, patients with CVD accounted for 12% of all the healthcare expenditure and 126m hospital bed days.

In-patient hospital care accounted for 57% of the healthcare costs, with drugs making up 27%.

In regard to business, CVD was said to account for 268.5 million working days lost and to severely hamper the daily activities of 4.4 million people - one in every 100 EU citizens.

The two million deaths from CVD in 2003 were estimated to cost 24.4 billion euros, and were linked to 2.18 million lost working years.

Significant variations in countries' spending on CVD were found, with just over 17% of the UK's healthcare budget was spent on the diseases, compared to 15% for Germany.

The lowest proportion of the budget spent on CVD was seen in Ireland (4.4%) and Malta (2%).

'No judgement'

The public health experts' report also estimated the "hidden costs" of caring for people with CVD.

It suggests informal care cost 29 billion euros, with 2.98 million CVD sufferers receiving 2.95 billion hours of help from unpaid carers.

Jose Leal, who led the research, said: "The aim of our study was not to judge whether countries were spending too much or too little relative to others.

"Establishing the cost of an illness doesn't permit us to say if a country is spending too much or too little."

Ramon Luengo-Fernandez, who also worked on the research, added: "The 169 billion euro cost of CVD to the EU is more than any other published estimates for other diseases, and if anything, is likely to be an under-estimate."

Maura Gillespie of the British Heart Foundation, said: "Fighting heart and circulatory disease is an expensive battle and this paper is a good indicator of the financial cost to Europe.

"Amongst other things, it emphasises the extremely high financial burden of heart disease to the UK, with around one in every six UK healthcare pounds being spent on it."

She added: "More than 1 in 10 men, women and children in the UK live with some form of heart and circulatory disease.

"This paper underlines the urgent need for more effective prevention measures and high quality research."

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