Patients who adhere to statin regimens are healthier, but higher drug spending makes overall care more costly

February 28, 2013

Individuals with high cholesterol who stay on their statin medications over a 2-year period are healthier than comparable nonadherent individuals, but the overall cost of their care is slightly higher, according to a new study.

 

Individuals with high cholesterol who stay on their statin medications over a 2-year period are healthier than comparable nonadherent ­individuals, but the overall cost of their care is slightly higher, according to a new study.

While the new study, from pharmacy benefit manager Prime Therapeutics, aligns with earlier ones that also showed adherent individuals had improved health and lower medical costs, this study varies from others in concluding that the overall cost of care is higher. In the earlier studies,  the overall cost of care was lower as decreased medical costs for their care more than offset the higher pharmacy costs. “It’s important to emphasize that our study showed that adherence to statins was associated with lower medical costs and hospitalizations, leading to healthier outcomes for individuals,” said lead author Pat Gleason, PharmD, FCCP, BCPS, director of health outcomes with Prime.

Done in collaboration with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, the study found individuals adherent to statin medications went to the hospital or emergency department 2.6% less often than nonadherent individuals, resulting in medical costs that were 7% lower (a difference of $767). The lower medical costs, however, were offset by pharmacy costs that were 45% higher (a difference of $1,606). Researchers compared medical and pharmacy costs among individuals with high cholesterol who were adherent to their statin medication to individuals who were not adherent (“adherence” was defined as “following the medication regime 80% of the time or more”). Of the 45,869 individuals included in the study, 21,693 (47.3%) were adherent and 24,176 (52.7%) nonadherent during the 2-year follow-up period.

Population differences, including the relatively young ages of the individuals in the new study, are a possible reason its findings differ from those of previous studies, Dr Gleason said. The earlier studies each had a specific population focus-individuals from a single employer, in 1 study, and retirees, in the other. As a result, the cost analyses from the earlier studies were limited in their generalizability.

“With the increasing availability of generic statins, especially the generic atorvastatin of the brand Lipitor, we may see lower pharmacy costs in future studies like this,” Dr Gleason added. ■