Oral nutritional supplements are a cost-effective method for improving nutritional status, estimated life years, and quality adjusted life years (QALYs) of older adults who are hospitalized, a study published in Applied Health Economics and Health Policy has shown.1

Malnutrition is associated with increased medical complications in older hospitalized patients; therefore, researchers sought to determine the cost-effectiveness of using specialized oral nutrition supplements in this patient population.

For the study, researchers performed a cost analysis that compared a specialized nutrition supplement (Ensure Enlive; Abbott) containing high protein and β-hydroxy-β-methylbutyrate (HMB) with a placebo in malnourished people age 65 years and older who were hospitalized with a heart or lung disease. This analysis was based on results from the NOURISH clinical study, which associated use of this nutrition supplement with improved nutritional status, body weight, and mortality rate in older hospitalized malnourished adults with a heart or lung condition.

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Over the 90-day study period, health outcomes were improved for less than $34,000 per QALY, which is below the $50,000 to $100,000 benchmark. Projecting that cost over the lifetime of an estimated 8.77 years vs 8.06 years in the placebo group, the cost is $524 for each year of life saved. This cost is on par with use of aspirin, flu vaccines, and warfarin in appropriate at-risk populations, the authors noted.

“The results of our study suggest an opportunity to improve the health and survival of these patients at a low marginal cost. Few interventions that have been studied have shown health gains less expensively, particularly in this population,” said Josh Cohen, deputy director, Center for the Evaluation of Value and Risk in Health, Institute for Clinical Research and Health Policy Studies, Tufts Medical Center, and a study co-author.2


1. Zhong Y, Cohen JT, Goates S, Luo M, Nelson J, Neumann PJ. The cost-effectiveness of oral nutrition supplementation for malnourished older hospital patients. Appl Health Econ Health Policy. 2016 Aug 4. doi: 10.1007/s40258-016-0269-7. [Epub ahead of print]

2. Abbott. New research suggests specialized nutrition cost-effectively extends lives of malnourished hospitalized adults [news release]. EurekAlert! web site. http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2016-08/mg-n-nrs082916.php. Published August 30, 2016. Accessed September 13, 2016.