A new study by BCIRPU researchers finds that poisonings cost British Columbians hundreds of millions of dollars per year in costs such as health care expenditures and lost productivity.

Published in CMAJ Open, the study examines the economic impact of poisonings in BC, estimating that in 2016, poisonings cost the province $812.5 million—$108.9 million in direct health care costs and $703.6 million in indirect costs such as lost productivity.

In BC, poisoning is the leading cause of injury-related death and the second leading cause of injury-related hospital admissions. In 2016, there were over 45,000 poisonings in the province.

Costs were calculated using existing provincial injury data combined with data from published literature. Here’s the breakdown of costs in 2016:

  • Direct costs: $108.9 million
    • Death costs: $12.8 million
    • Hospital admissions costs: $67.2 million
    • Emergency department costs: $25.8 million
    • Ambulance costs: $2.1 million
    • BC Drug and Poison Information Centre costs: $1 million
  • Indirect costs: $703.6 million
    • Death costs: $702.0 million
    • Hospital admissions costs: $1.6 million

The study also found that unintentional poisonings resulted in disproportionately more costs in deaths, whereas intentional poisonings from suicide or self-harm led to more costs in hospital admissions. These findings will inform poison prevention education and policy, with insights into the ongoing opioid overdose crisis.

Read the study.