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Am J Cardiovasc Drugs. 2003;3(3):179-91.

Cost effectiveness of HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors in the management of coronary artery disease: the problem of under-treatment.

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  • 1School of Health and Related Research, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK.


HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors significantly reduce the risk of coronary artery disease (CAD) events and CAD-related mortality in patients with and without established CAD. Consequently, HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors have a central role within recommendations for lipid-modifying therapy. However, despite these guidelines, only one-third to one-half of eligible patients receive lipid-lowering therapy and as few as one-third of these patients achieve recommended target serum levels of low density lipoprotein-cholesterol. The underuse of HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors in eligible patients has important implications for mortality, morbidity and cost, given the enormous economic burden associated with CAD; direct healthcare costs, estimated at US $16-53 billion (2000 values) in the US and 1.6 billion pound (1996 values) in the UK alone, are largely driven by inpatient care. Hospitalization costs are reduced by treatment with HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors, particularly in high-risk groups such as patients with CAD and diabetes mellitus in whom net cost savings may be achieved. HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors are underused because of institutional factors and clinician and patient factors. Also, the vast number of patients eligible for treatment means that the use of HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors is undoubtedly limited by budgetary considerations. Secondary prevention in CAD using HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors is certainly cost effective. Primary prevention with HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors is also cost effective in many patients, depending upon CAD risk and drug dosage. As new, more powerful, HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors come to market, and the established HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors come off patent, the identification of the most cost-effective therapy becomes increasingly complex. Research in to the relative cost effectiveness of alternative HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors, taking full account of the institutional, clinician and patient barriers to uptake should be undertaken to identify the most appropriate role for the new therapies.

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