Acute Oxygen Therapy for Cluster Headache Not Prohibitively Expensive

oxygen tank and human hand
oxygen tank and human hand
The current costs of medical grade oxygen for treating cluster headache are not "prohibitively expensive."

Results of a recent study found that the current costs of medical grade oxygen for use in the treatment of cluster headache (CH) are not “prohibitively expensive” for either healthcare insurance providers or for patients.

Price lists and product catalogs were obtained and analyzed from medical grade oxygen wholesale and retail suppliers across all US states. The study authors stated that “a cost simulator was used to calculate the cost of oxygen use using inputs including the state in USA, tank size and price, exacerbations per year, duration of exacerbation, attacks per day, flow rate and duration of flow.” Information regarding the coverage and reimbursement of home oxygen use for CH by healthcare insurance providers was also obtained. Medical grade oxygen pricing information was available from suppliers in a total of 42 US states. 

Data analysis found that the cost of high-flow oxygen used for the treatment of episodic CH was estimated to be <$1000 per year in 38 states. In addition, research found that, in 39 states, the cost of high-flow oxygen used for the treatment of chronic CH was estimated to be <$5000 per year. The authors also noted that not only were most home oxygen suppliers familiar with CH, but they often kept the necessary non-rebreather masks and regulators stocked as well. The cost of oxygen use for CH was often reimbursed by private commercial healthcare insurance providers. On the other hand, “The US Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) maintains there is insufficient evidence for coverage and continues to deny coverage for US Medicare and Medicaid patients.”

The study concluded that the cost of medical grade oxygen for the acute treatment of CH is not prohibitively expensive for patients or for insurance providers. “Further research is needed to determine if a lack of physician awareness about treatments and ways to prescribe are barriers for patients to access the high-flow oxygen treatment,” write the authors.

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O’Brien M, Ford JH, Aurora SK, Govindan S, Tepper DE, Tepper SJ. Economics of inhaled oxygen use as an acute therapy for cluster headache in the United States of America [published online August 26, 2017]. Headache. doi:10.1111/head.13167

This article originally appeared on MPR