Background: Screening for hyperlipidemia is a substantial cost burden, as is its treatment. The choice of 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl coenzyme A reductase inhibitors (statins) and the dose level may have significant implications for both efficient and cost effective therapy.
Objective: To compare the efficiency and cost of statins.
Materials and methods: A meta-analysis was conducted of randomized, controlled trials of monotherapy with fixed doses of statins published in the literature until June 1998. Two authors independently extracted data from 49 trials comprising 14,130 patients. The percentage reduction (95% confidence intervals) of low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels was calculated using a random-effects model. Cost efficiency was defined as the percentage decline of LDL cholesterol per dollar of drug cost.
Results: The population evaluated had a mean baseline LDL cholesterol concentration of 5.31 mmol/L, a mean age of 53.5 years and a mean 59% proportion of males. In reducing LDL cholesterol concentrations to less than 25% of the baseline concentration, a significantly higher cost efficiency was achieved with simvastatin 2.5 mg (-53.3%/dollar). By targeting a reduction between 25% and 29%, significantly higher cost efficiencies were found with simvastatin 5 mg (-28.9%/dollar), cerivastatin 0.2 mg (-23.8%/dollar) and fluvastatin 40 mg (-23.3%/dollar). For reductions in LDL cholesterol concentrations of 30% to 34%, statistically higher cost efficiencies were achieved with simvastatin 20 mg (-15.0%/dollar) and pravastatin 40 mg (-14. 4%/dollar). Finally, atorvastatin 10 mg yielded a value of -22. 9%/dollar for a 36% reduction in LDL cholesterol concentration.
Conclusions: At current prices of the various doses of statins, the cost efficiency of standard and more aggressive therapies varies substantially. In the context of health care budgets, targeting at-risk patients and using statins judiciously should facilitate the efforts of clinicians and patients to reduce lipid profiles optimally and decrease the cost burden.