Schaeffer Center Faculty Publish Cholesterol Study in “Health Affairs”
Statins, a cholesterol-lowering medication and a clinically important breakthrough for the treatment of cardiovascular disease, yield large population survival and health benefits, according to researchers at the Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics at USC, in a study published in October’s issue of Health Affairs.
In “The Large Social Value Resulting From Use of Statins Warrants Steps to Improve Adherence And Broaden Treatment,” co-authors Dr. Dana Goldman, Director of the Schaeffer Center, and Dr. Darius Lakdawalla, Director of Research at the Schaeffer Center, conclude that interventions aimed at patients and providers that encourage greater use of and adherence to statins would lead to even greater longevity and health benefits. The economic benefits would be even larger given the patent expiration of major statins such as Lipitor.
“Scientific literature has long suggested that statins are a cost-effective therapy,” said Lakdawalla. “But this study is a unique look at the social value of statin use, that is, what amount of money would society be willing to pay for the survival gains due to statins? With this study, we found that there is a large value associated with the use of this therapy, indicating that as a society we should be encouraging greater use.”
The study examined combined population and clinical data for the period from 1987 to 2008. For the time period studied, the researchers estimate the aggregate social value of statins to be $1.252 trillion. As a comparison, the United States spent $2.3 trillion in health care in 2008.
The researchers undertook a three-step analysis which began by assessing survey data to determine the relationship between statin use and cholesterol levels. They then observed how changes in cholesterol levels affected deaths and hospitalizations, estimated how statin use affected long term survival and then calculated the social value of the survival gains.
Lakdawalla, who was recently named the inaugural Quintiles Chair in Pharmaceutical Development and Regulatory Innovation, added, “There is an implication of underuse that should be addressed. If statins were prescribed by physicians and used in full compliance with LDL guidelines, we could see even greater longevity and health benefits.”
David C. Grabowski, professor in the Department of Health Care Policy at the Harvard Medical School is the lead author of this study. Michael Eber of Precision Health Economics; Larry Liu, Tamer Abelgawad, and Andreas Kuznik of Pfizer; Michael Chernew of Harvard Medical School and Tomas Philipson of the University of Chicago were coauthors of this study.