The Public Health and Economic Impact of Drug Overdose Out-of-hospital Cardiac Arrest in the United States

Author Department

Emergency Medicine; Healthcare Quality

Document Type

Article, Peer-reviewed

Publication Date



Objective: To calculate disability-adjusted life years (DALY) and labor productivity loss due to drug overdose out-of-hospital cardiac arrest (DO-OHCA) and compare its contribution to the burden of disease and economic impact of all-cause nontraumatic out-of-hospital cardiac arrest (OHCA) in the US.

Methods: We performed a retrospective observational cohort analysis of all adult (age 18 years) nontraumatic emergency medical services-treated OHCA events, including those due to DO-OHCA, from the national Cardiac Arrest Registry to Enhance Survival (CARES) database from January 1, 2017 and December 31, 2020. The main outcome measures of interest were disability-adjusted life years, annual, and lifetime labor productivity loss over the 4-year study period. The findings for the study population were extrapolated to a national level using the CARES population catchment and U.S. population estimates by year.

Results: A total of 378,088 adult OHCA events, including 23,252 DO-OHCA (6.2%) met study inclusion criteria. The DO-OHCA DALY increased from 156,707 in 2017 to 265,692 in 2020. Per year, DO-OHCA contributed to 11.4%, 12.0%, 10.5%, and 11.4% of all OHCA DALY lost from 2017-2020, respectively. The mean annual and lifetime productivity losses for all OHCA were stable over time (annual: $47K in 2017 to $50K in 2020; lifetime: $647K in 2017 to $692K in 2020). The CARES population catchment increased by 39.8% over the study period (102.6M in 2017 to 143.4M in 2020). For DO-OHCA, the mean annual productivity loss was approximately 30% higher than non-DO-OHCA ($64K vs. $49K in 2020, respectively). The mean lifetime productivity loss for DO-OHCA was 2.5 times higher than non-DO-OHCA ($1.6M vs. $630K in 2020, respectively).

Conclusions: The DALY due to DO-OHCA has increased over time with expansion of the CARES dataset, but its relative contribution to total OHCA DALY (all non-traumatic etiologies) remained fairly stable. The DO-OHCAs represent approximately 6% of all adult non-traumatic EMS-treated OHCA events but has a disproportionately greater economic impact. Continued efforts to reduce DO-OHCA through public health initiatives are warranted to lessen the societal impact of OHCA in the U.S.

Keywords: burden of disease; disability-adjusted life years; drug overdose; economic productivity loss; out-of-hospital cardiac arrest.