Anorexia of aging is a disease that occurs in later life and results in a decrease in appetite and/or food intake that makes it hard to maintain a normal body weight. The epidemiology and mortality rates of anorexia of aging in the United States have not been well studied using real-world data. Additionally, prior methods used for identifying anorexia of aging have varied between studies, making it difficult to understand the true prevalence and incidence of the disease. Pfizer and Clarify Health conducted a large-scale real-world study leveraging Medicare fee-for-service (FFS) claims data to assess the annual prevalence and incidence of anorexia in older adults. The study, “Anorexia in Medicare Fee-for-Service Beneficiaries: A Claims-Based Analysis of Epidemiology and Mortality,” was published in The Journal of Nutrition, Health & Aging in January 2023. The authors believe this is the first study to explore the association between anorexia and mortality in a large population of older adults in the U.S.

Methodology and Findings

Incidence, prevalence, and mortality of anorexia in older adults

The study included adults over the age of 65 with Medicare FFS coverage, which is approximately 30 million individuals each year. Medicare FFS claims were evaluated across the continuum of care, including claims from hospital inpatient/outpatient, office, assisted living facility, skilled nursing facility, hospice, rehabilitation facility, and home settings.

The results showed that 1.1% of adults over the age of 65 with Medicare FFS health insurance are diagnosed with anorexia each year. They also determined that these individuals have a higher comorbidity burden and increased risk of annual mortality compared to those without a diagnosis of anorexia. The most common comorbidities for those with anorexia (on the Charlson Comorbidity Index) were chronic pulmonary disease, dementia, and peripheral vascular disease. The annual mortality rate among those with anorexia was 22.3% (versus 4.1% without anorexia).

Improving the patient journey

Research-grade real-world data for pharma & life sciences

With its Medicare FFS claims data (accessed through the CMS Virtual Research Data Center) and its clinical informatics team, Clarify worked hand-in-hand with Pfizer to use these data to develop the study methodology, conduct data analysis, and interpret the results.

Learn how Clarify is helping life sciences companies leverage research-grade real-world data better to understand therapeutics’ impact beyond the clinical research setting. Its real-world evidence (RWE) services offerings support pharma and life sciences companies with outcomes research, comparative research, cost effectiveness research, epidemiology studies, commercial analytics, and market intelligence.