April 1, 2017

The Cost-Benefit Balance of Statins in Hawai’i: A Moving Target

Corey J. Lum, DO; Kazuma Nakagawa, MD; Ralph V. Shohet, MD; Todd B. Seto, MD, MPH; and Deborah A. Taira, ScD

Hawai’i Journal of Medicine & Public Health

Statins are lipid-lowering medications used for primary and secondary prevention of atherosclerotic disease and represent a substantial portion of drug costs in the United States. A better understanding of prescribing patterns and drug costs should lead to more rational utilization and help constrain health care expenditures in the United States.

The 2013 Medicare Provider Utilization and Payment Data: Part D Prescriber Public Use File for the State of Hawai‘i was analyzed. The number of prescriptions for statins, total annual cost, and daily cost were calculated by prescriber specialty and drug. Potential savings from substituting the highest-cost statin with lower-cost statins were calculated. Over 421,000 prescriptions for statins were provided to Medicare Part D beneficiaries in Hawai‘i in 2013, which cost $17.6M. The three most commonly prescribed statins were simvastatin (33.4%), atorvastatin (33.4%), and lovastatin (13.9%). Although rosuvastatin comprised 5.4% of the total statin prescriptions, it represented 30.1% of the total cost of statins due to a higher daily cost ($5.53/day) compared to simvastatin ($0.25/day) and atorvastatin ($1.10/day). Cardiologists and general practitioners prescribed the highest percentage of rosuvastatin (8% each). Hypothetical substitution of rosuvastatin would have resulted in substantial annual cost savings (Simvastatin would have saved $1.3M for 25% substitution and $5.1M for 100% substitution, while atorvastatin would have saved $1.1M for 25% substitution and $4.3M for 100% substitution). Among Medicare Part D beneficiaries in Hawai‘i, prescribing variation for statins between specialties were observed. Substitution of higher-cost with lower-cost statins may lead to substantial cost savings.

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