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BMC Public Health. 2012 Jun 1;12:398. doi: 10.1186/1471-2458-12-398.

Improving the cost-effectiveness of cardiovascular disease prevention in Australia: a modelling study.

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School of Population Health, University of Queensland, Herston 4029, Australia.



Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death worldwide. Like many countries, Australia is currently changing its guidelines for cardiovascular disease prevention from drug treatment for everyone with 'high blood pressure' or 'high cholesterol', to prevention based on a patient's absolute risk. In this research, we model cost-effectiveness of cardiovascular disease prevention with blood pressure and lipid drugs in Australia under three different scenarios: (1) the true current practice in Australia; (2) prevention as intended under the current guidelines; and (3) prevention according to proposed absolute risk levels. We consider the implications of changing to absolute risk-based cardiovascular disease prevention, for the health of the Australian people and for Government health sector expenditure over the long term.


We evaluate cost-effectiveness of statins, diuretics, ACE inhibitors, calcium channel blockers and beta-blockers, for Australian men and women, aged 35 to 84 years, who have never experienced a heart disease or stroke event. Epidemiological changes and health care costs are simulated by age and sex in a discrete time Markov model, to determine total impacts on population health and health sector costs over the lifetime, from which we derive cost-effectiveness ratios in 2008 Australian dollars per quality-adjusted life year.


Cardiovascular disease prevention based on absolute risk is more cost-effective than prevention under the current guidelines based on single risk factor thresholds, and is more cost-effective than the current practice, which does not follow current clinical guidelines. Recommending blood pressure-lowering drugs to everyone with at least 5% absolute risk and statin drugs to everyone with at least 10% absolute risk, can achieve current levels of population health, while saving $5.4 billion for the Australian Government over the lifetime of the population. But savings could be as high as $7.1 billion if Australia could match the cheaper price of statin drugs in New Zealand.


Changing to absolute risk-based cardiovascular disease prevention is highly recommended for reducing health sector spending, but the Australian Government must also consider measures to reduce the cost of statin drugs, over and above the legislated price cuts of November 2010.

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