Recessive dystrophic epidermolysis bullosa (RDEB) is a genetic collagen disorder characterized by skin fragility leading to blistering, wounds, and scarring. There are currently no approved curative therapies. The objective of this manuscript is to provide a comprehensive literature review of the disease burden caused by RDEB.
A systematic literature review was conducted in MEDLINE and Embase in accordance with PRISMA guidelines. Observational and interventional studies on the economic, clinical, or humanistic burden of RDEB were included.
Sixty-five studies were included in the review. Patients had considerable wound burden, with 60% reporting wounds covering more than 30% of their body. Increases in pain and itch were seen with larger wound size. Chronic wounds were larger and more painful than recurrent wounds. Commonly reported symptoms and complications included lesions and blistering, anemia, nail dystrophy and loss, milia, infections, musculoskeletal contractures, strictures or stenoses, constipation, malnutrition/nutritional problems, pseudosyndactyly, ocular manifestations, and dental caries. Many patients underwent esophageal dilation (29-74%; median dilations, 2-6) and gastrostomy tube placement (8-58%). In the severely affected population, risk of squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) was 76% and mortality from SCC reached 84% by age 40. Patients with RDEB experienced worsened quality of life (QOL), decreased functioning and social activities, and increased pain and itch when compared to other EB subtypes, other skin diseases, and the general population. Families of patients reported experiencing high rates of burden including financial burden (50-54%) and negative impact on private life (79%). Direct medical costs were high, though reported in few studies; annual payer-borne total medical costs in Ireland were $84,534 and annual patient-borne medical costs in Korea were $7392. Estimated annual US costs for wound dressings ranged from $4000 to $245,000. Patients spent considerable time changing dressings: often daily (13-54% of patients) with up to three hours per change (15-40%).
Patients with RDEB and their families/caregivers experience significant economic, humanistic, and clinical burden. Further research is needed to better understand the costs of disease, how the burden of disease changes over the patient lifetime and to better characterize QOL impact, and how RDEB compares with other chronic, debilitating disorders.