Cost-effectiveness of 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-coenzyme A (HMG-CoA) reductase inhibitor therapy in the managed care era

Am J Cardiol. 1996 Sep 26;78(6A):32-41. doi: 10.1016/s0002-9149(96)00660-1.


More than $100 billion is spent in the United States each year on cardiovascular disease, primarily for hospitalizations and revascularization procedures. This is more than for any other disease state. As the clinical practice of medicine shifts from the paradigm of private practice to the managed care environment, cost-effectiveness is becoming increasingly important. A primary measure in analyzing cost-effectiveness is the cost-effectiveness ratio, or the dollar cost per unit of improvement for a given expenditure. This measure allows healthcare planners to compare completely different interventions. With approximately 52 million adult U.S. citizens having elevated low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels, lipid-lowering therapy---with diet or 3-hydroxy-3methylglutaryl-coenzyme A (HMG-CoA) reductase inhibitors---is an important consideration for primary care physicians and managed care providers. The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) III indicates that 75-88% of adults who have coronary artery disease (CAD) risk factors or CAD require only a moderate (20--30%) reduction in LDL cholesterol levels to reach National Cholesterol Education Program goals. The clinical literature shows that all 4 of the currently available HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors can provide appropriate, moderate LDL cholesterol reductions within their recommended dosage ranges. For the majority of patients who need a 20--30% reduction in LDL cholesterol, fluvastatin 20 or 40 mg once daily provides the most cost-effective HMG-CoA therapy, expressed as cost of therapy per 1% LDL cholesterol reduction. For patients who need a >30% LDL cholesterol reduction, a high-dose HMG-CoA reductase inhibitor (e.g., simvastatin 20 or 40 mg/day) or a combination of a lower-dose HMG-CoA reductase inhibitor and a bile acid resin is the preferred initial therapy. Although a true cost-effectiveness analysis would incorporate morbidity and mortality data from clinical trials, analysis using intermediate endpoints, such as LDL cholesterol reduction, suggests that fluvastatin is the preferred initial HMG-CoA reductase inhibitor for the treatment of moderate hyperlipidemia.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Coronary Disease / epidemiology
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Drug Tolerance
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors / economics*
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Hypercholesterolemia / prevention & control
  • Male
  • Managed Care Programs / economics*
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk Factors


  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors