Canadian cystic fibrosis patients live 10 years longer than US counterparts

While patients diagnosed with cystic fibrosis — which damages the lungs and digestive system — are living longer than ever before, Canadians with the inherited life-threatening disorder live approximately 10 years longer than Americans with the condition, according to a new study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

For the study, researchers compared data on 45,456 patients compiled in the U.S. Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Registry and 5,941 patients compiled in the Canadian Cystic Fibrosis Registry from 1990 to 2013. Based on data from 2009 to 2013, cystic fibrosis patients in Canada lived an average of 50.9 years compared to 40.6 years in the U.S.

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Further analysis revealed no difference in survival rates for U.S. patients with private health insurance when compared to Canadians, who have universal healthcare program. However, when compared to Americans with unknown or no health insurance, Canadians had a 77 percent lower risk of death.

Researchers said possible reasons for the differences in survival rates could be the fact lung transplant rates are higher among Canadians with the condition. Also, Canadians with cystic fibrosis were exposed to beneficial high fat diets in the 1970s, while the nutritional practice was not implemented in the U.S. until the 1980s.

"Achieving a better understanding of the drivers behind differences in survival rates is critical to our mission to improve and extend the lives of people with cystic fibrosis," said Bruce Marshall, MD, lead study investigator and senior vice-president of clinical affairs for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. "As a result of this study, we will be conducting further research to better understand the role of nutrition and insurance status — and are encouraged that the findings reinforce the central goal of our lung transplant initiative, a comprehensive effort to improve transplant outcomes for people with cystic fibrosis in the United States."

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