The losses in productivity due to cardiovascular disease (CVD) are substantial but rarely considered in health economic analyses. We compared the cost-effectiveness of lipid level modification in the primary prevention of CVD with and without these indirect costs.
We used the Cardiovascular Life Expectancy Model to estimate the long-term benefits and cost-effectiveness of lipid level modification with atorvastatin calcium, including 28% and 38% reductions in total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels, respectively, and a 5.5% increase in high-density lipoprotein cholesterol level. The direct costs included all medical care costs associated with CVD. The indirect costs represented the loss of employment income and the decreased value of housekeeping services after different manifestations of CVD. All costs were expressed in 2000 Canadian dollars.
When only direct medical care costs were considered, the incremental cost-effectiveness ratios for lifelong therapy with atorvastatin calcium, 10 mg/d, were generally positive, ranging from a few thousand to nearly $20 000 per year of life saved. When the societal point of view was adopted and indirect costs were included, the total costs were generally negative, representing substantial cost savings (up to $50 000) and increased life expectancy for most groups of individuals.
Lipid therapy with statins can reduce CVD morbidity and mortality as demonstrated in a number of clinical trials. Adding the indirect CVD costs associated with productivity losses at work and home can result in forecasted cost savings to society as a whole such that lipid therapy could potentially save lives and money.