Cost-effectiveness of 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-coenzyme A reductase inhibitors in the secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease: forecasting the incremental benefits of preventing coronary and cerebrovascular events

Arch Intern Med. 1999 Mar 22;159(6):593-600. doi: 10.1001/archinte.159.6.593.


Objective: To forecast the long-term benefits and cost-effectiveness of lipid modification in the secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease.

Methods: A validated model based on data from the Lipid Research Clinics cohort was used to estimate the benefits and cost-effectiveness of lipid modification with 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-coenzyme A reductase inhibitors (statins) based on results from the Scandinavian Simvastatin Survival Study (4S), including a 35% decrease in low-density-lipoprotein (LDL)-cholesterol levels and an 8% increase in high-density-lipoprotein (HDL)-cholesterol levels. After comparing the short-term outcomes predicted for the 4S with the results actually observed, we forecast the long-term risk of recurrent myocardial infarction, congestive heart failure, transient ischemic attacks, arrhythmias, and strokes and the need for surgical procedures such as coronary artery bypass grafting, catheterization, angioplasty, and pacemaker insertions. Outpatient follow-up care costs were estimated, as were the costs of hospital care and drug therapy. All costs were expressed in 1996 US dollars.

Results: The short-term outcomes predicted for the 4S were consistent with the observed results. The long-term benefits of lipid modification among low-risk subjects (normotensive nonsmokers) with a baseline LDL/ HDL ratio of 5 but no other risk factors ranged from $5424 to $9548 per year of life saved for men and $8389 to $13747 per year of life saved for women. In high-risk subjects (hypertensive smokers) with an LDL/HDL ratio of 5, the estimated costs ranged from $4487 to $8532 per year of life saved in men and $5138 to $8389 per year of life saved in women. Assuming that lipid modification has no effect on the risk of stroke, cost-effectiveness increased by as much as 100%.

Conclusions: These long-term cost estimates are consistent with the short-term economic analyses of the published 4S results. The long-term treatment of hyperlipidemia in secondary prevention is forecasted to be cost-effective across a broad range of patients between 40 and 70 years of age. Recognizing the additional effects of lipid changes on cerebrovascular events can substantially improve the cost-effectiveness of treating hyperlipidemia.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Canada
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / economics*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Cerebrovascular Disorders / economics
  • Cerebrovascular Disorders / prevention & control
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Drug Costs
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors / economics*
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Hypolipidemic Agents / economics*
  • Hypolipidemic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Life Expectancy
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Recurrence
  • Risk
  • Scandinavian and Nordic Countries
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Simvastatin / economics
  • Simvastatin / therapeutic use


  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors
  • Hypolipidemic Agents
  • Simvastatin