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Pulmonary fibrosis places a heavy financial burden on patients affected by this progressive disease

By Michael Bartlett

Posted on July 08th, 2020

Medical bills are only part of the total costs of pulmonary fibrosis. Additional expenses related to pulmonary fibrosis do not relate to the treatment itself, but they may occur as a consequence and include lost income, premature retirement, caregiving costs, transportation expenses, and the cost of lodging.

Although the causal relationship between asbestos exposure and pulmonary fibrosis has not been yet recognized, a series of clinical case studies found this disease highly prevalent among individuals with a history of occupational asbestos exposure.

Diagnosis of pulmonary fibrosis is usually made after excluding alternative diagnoses and considering symptoms alongside exposure history and radiographic features.

Clinical criteria for the diagnosis of an asbestos-related illness include:

  • A confirmed history of heavy asbestos exposure;
  • The period between initial asbestos exposure and the appearance of clinical disease - usually more than 10 years;
  • Radiographic evidence of pleural plaques, pleural effusion, thickening, masses, and/or pneumothorax.

The high treatment costs add emotional distress and financial hardship to pulmonary fibrosis patients and their families

More recent studies led the scientists to hypothesize that there may be cases of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis related to exposure to asbestos. People who worked in construction, maintenance, heavy industry, were in contact with an extremely high concentration of asbestos. Pulmonary fibrosis typically occurs 10 to 40 years after the first exposure to asbestos. Inhalation is the only route of exposure which may lead to pulmonary fibrosis. Shortly after inhalation, the asbestos fibers which attached themselves to lung tissue start producing persistent inflammation and scarring, which will ultimately cause fibrotic lung disease.

  • Medication - In 2014, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved two antifibrotic synthetic compounds for pulmonary fibrosis each at a cost of almost $100,000 per patient per year.
  • Oxygen support - The total annual cost of respiratory care for a patient with pulmonary fibrosis receiving long-term oxygen therapy amounted to $12,000.
  • Pulmonary rehabilitation - between $300 - $600 per patient.

The costs of medical care for patients with pulmonary fibrosis are climbing rapidly as the disease worsens

Pulmonary fibrosis is characterized by progressive worsening of dyspnea and lung function, with a poor prognosis. The condition usually occurs in adult individuals of between 50 and 70 years of age, particularly those with a history of smoking along with asbestos exposure history, and affects more men than women. As the person's lungs become less efficient, any exertion, even just changing their position, talking, or eating might make them feel out of breath.

A large proportion of patients with pulmonary fibrosis will need hospital admission because of respiratory failure requiring mechanical ventilation.

  • Emergency department visits - the mean annual cost for ICU admission of more than $14,000
  • Inpatient care - the mean annual costs of more than $16,000

In very severe cases, pulmonary fibrosis patients may be candidates for a lung transplant. The cost of lung transplantation is between $430,000 and $580,000 depending on whether the procedure involves one or both lungs.

In addition to general treatment, the patient may be referred to a specialist palliative care team or local respiratory service for treatment and therapy options. With an average cost of approximately $12,000 per patient, palliative care focuses on treating symptoms of breathlessness and flare-ups and other symptoms, including:

  • Chest pain
  • A troublesome cough
  • Poor appetite
  • Disturbed sleep patterns
  • Fatigue
  • Feeling more anxious and depressed

It is important to note that suffering from pulmonary fibrosis makes you more susceptible to developing lung cancer or pleural mesothelioma in the future.

If you are suffering from pulmonary fibrosis as a result of occupational asbestos exposure, we can help you file a claim for compensation

If you are a former asbestos worker or a veteran of the U.S. Military suffering from pulmonary fibrosis, our attorneys will offer you quality legal assistance and help you recover your well-deserved compensation amount. However, with a pulmonary fibrosis diagnosis, you will need to travel to our medical facility in Birmingham, AL for additional no-charge testing, generally consisting of a physical examination and a chest radiograph.

In progressing an asbestos-related claim, time is of the essence, hence, we encourage you to begin the legal process as early as possible once you have a diagnosis of pulmonary fibrosis related to asbestos exposure. We can also help you file a claim on behalf of a loved one who has already died from an asbestos-related disease, or continue their claim if they die while it is ongoing.