Individuals with high cholesterol who adhere to their statin medication are healthier

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A new study presented today by pharmacy benefit manager Prime Therapeutics (Prime), in collaboration with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota (Blue Cross), at the Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy's 2012 Educational Conference, showed that individuals with high cholesterol who stayed on their statin medications over a two-year period were healthier but had a slightly higher overall cost of care.

The study found individuals adherent to statin medication went to the hospital or emergency department 2.6 percent less often than non-adherent individuals, resulting in medical costs that were 7 percent lower (a difference of $767). The lower medical costs, however, were offset by pharmacy costs that were 45 percent higher (a difference of $1,606).

This conclusion varies from earlier studies that showed individuals adherent to their cholesterol medication had a lower total cost of care because their lower medical costs more than offset their higher pharmacy costs. The reason for the difference identified in this study may be due to population differences, including younger age, according to the authors.

"This study is a continuation of our collaborative work with Blue Cross into understanding the connection between adherence and total cost of health care, including hospitalizations," said Pat Gleason, PharmD, FCCP, BCPS, director of clinical outcomes assessment with Prime. "With the increasing availability of generic statins, especially the generic atorvastatin of the brand Lipitor, the higher pharmacy costs we found may be lowered. In this study, adherence to statins was associated with lower medical costs and hospitalizations, two very important outcomes that will help up us recommend solutions that lead to healthier outcomes for individuals."

In the study, researchers from Prime and Blue Cross compared medical and pharmacy costs among individuals with high cholesterol who were adherent to their statin medication to individuals who were not adherent ("adherence" was defined as following the medication regime 80 percent of the time or more). Of the 45,869 members included in the study, 21,693 (47.3 percent) were adherent and 24,176 (52.7 percent) non-adherent during the two-year follow-up period.