BACKGROUND: In low tuberculosis (TB) incidence countries TB affects mostly immigrants in the productive age group. Little empirical information is available about direct and indirect TB-related costs that patients face in these high-income countries. We assessed the direct and indirect costs of immigrants with TB in the Netherlands. METHODS: A cross-sectional survey at 14 municipal health services and 2 specialized TB hospitals was conducted. Interviews were administered to first or second generation immigrants, 18 years or older, with pulmonary or extrapulmonary TB, who were on treatment for 1-6 months. Out of pocket expenditures and time loss, related to TB, was assessed for different phases of the current TB illness. RESULTS: In total 60 patients were interviewed. Average direct costs spent by households with a TB patient amounted euro353. Most costs were spent when being hospitalized. Time loss (mean 81 days) was mainly due to hospitalization (19 days) and additional work days lost (60 days), and corresponded with a cost estimation of euro2603. CONCLUSION: Even in a country with a good health insurance system that covers medication and consultation costs, patients do have substantial extra expenditures. Furthermore, our patients lost on average 2.7 months of productive days. TB patients are economically vulnerable.
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