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Cost Eff Resour Alloc. 2009 May 27;7:11. doi: 10.1186/1478-7547-7-11.

Methodological issues in assessing changes in costs pre- and post-medication switch: a schizophrenia study example.

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Lilly USA, LLC, Indianapolis, Indiana, USA.



Schizophrenia is a severe, chronic, and costly illness that adversely impacts patients' lives and health care payer budgets. Cost comparisons of treatment regimens are, therefore, important to health care payers and researchers. Pre-Post analyses ("mirror-image"), where outcomes prior to a medication switch are compared to outcomes post-switch, are commonly used in such research. However, medication changes often occur during a costly crisis event. Patients may relapse, be hospitalized, have a medication change, and then spend a period of time with intense use of costly resources (post-medication switch). While many advantages and disadvantages of Pre-Post methodology have been discussed, issues regarding the attributability of costs incurred around the time of medication switching have not been fully investigated.


Medical resource use data, including medications and acute-care services (hospitalizations, partial hospitalizations, emergency department) were collected for patients with schizophrenia who switched antipsychotics (n = 105) during a 1-year randomized, naturalistic, antipsychotic cost-effectiveness schizophrenia trial. Within-patient changes in total costs per day were computed during the pre- and post-medication change periods. In addition to the standard Pre-Post analysis comparing costs pre- and post-medication change, we investigated the sensitivity of results to varying assumptions regarding the attributability of acute care service costs occurring just after a medication switch that were likely due to initial medication failure.


Fifty-six percent of all costs incurred during the first week on the newly initiated antipsychotic were likely due to treatment failure with the previous antipsychotic. Standard analyses suggested an average increase in cost-per-day for each patient of $2.40 after switching medications. However, sensitivity analyses removing costs incurred post-switch that were potentially due to the failure of the initial medication suggested decreases in costs in the range of $4.77 to $9.69 per day post-switch.


Pre-Post cost analyses are sensitive to the approach used to handle acute-service costs occurring just after a medication change. Given the importance of quality economic research on the cost of switching treatments, thorough sensitivity analyses should be performed to identify the impact of crisis events around the time of medication change.

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