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Illustration of the affects of Cystic Fibrosis within the human body

The Age Disparity with Cystic Fibrosis

A recent publication indicates that data prove that Canadians with cystic fibrosis live significantly longer than Americans with cystic fibrosis.  Cystic fibrosis is caused by a gene mutation that leads to an increase in thick mucus production, rather than the normal gene production of thin mucus.  This results in a mucus build-up within the lungs, causing difficulty breathing, as well as issues with the pancreas’ ability to deliver enzymes into the digestive tract to break down food and absorb nutrients.  After several years of data collection and analyses, researchers found that Canadians have a higher median age of survival at 50 years old, whereas Americans only reach 40 years of age, across all severities of the disease.  There are many hypothesized factors that play into this age gap disparity.  One factor is Canadians are recommended to have a high-fat diet to assist the patient in receiving the nutrients he or she needs, the United States has yet to adopt this diet.  One of the biggest impacts playing into this disparity is health insurance.  Within Canada, insurance is provided through a single government payer and every citizen is covered.  The United States, on the other hand, has a multitude of insurance options, including private payer, Medicare or Medicaid, self-pay, or no insurance. While privately insured patients in the U.S. have similar outcomes as the covered individuals in Canada, Medicaid patients have much worse outcomes.  With cystic fibrosis, the number of medications required to address and alleviate patient’s symptoms can range from ten to fifteen medications, some of which may not be covered by Medicaid.  These factors need to be addressed within the U.S. in order to improve patient’s life expectancy with cystic fibrosis.

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