Objectives: To estimate for the first time the incidence and health care resource utilisation associated with genital warts (GW) in Australia prior to the HPV vaccination program.
Method: We analysed data from the nationally representative Bettering the Evaluation of Care and Health (BEACH) general practice cross sectional program and from the National Hospital Morbidity Database to estimate age-related incidence and community (non-hospital) and hospital-related costs (in 2009 Australian dollars) associated with medical treatment of genital warts.
Results: We estimated an annual incidence of 2.19 cases of genital warts per 1,000 Australians (95% CI: 1.88–2.49), with peak incidence in women aged 20–24 years at 8.61 cases per 1,000 and in men aged 25–29 years at 7.40 cases per 1,000. The estimated number of consultations per GW case was 2.9 (95% CI: 2.5–3.3) for women, and 2.8 (95% CI: 2.3–3.2) for men. Ablative treatments in general practice were more common in men (60% of consultations) than in women (37% of consultations). In contrast, more women (16% vs 8%) were referred to specialists and 76% of ablative procedures requiring hospitalisation were performed in women. The annual cost of management of GW is over A$A14 million, with an estimated cost per treated case of A$251 for men and A$386 for women.
Conclusions: Genital warts impose a large health and cost burden on Australians. The national immunisation program with the quadrivalent human papillomavirus vaccine has the potential to greatly reduce this burden and future research measuring its impact is keenly anticipated.