Economics of statin therapy

Statins have made huge sales and profits for the pharmaceutical industry. The heyday of the statin buinsess may have passed as atorvastatin and simvastatin are now available in generic form. But they are still big money-makers, if only because so many people take them About a quarter of Americans past age 45 take statins and the worldwide market is over $19 billion.

Statins are expensive; that is one of the most common complaints about them and one reason patients stop taking them. Are they too expensive, though? This question becomes less pressing as more of them go "off patent" and less expensive generic statin medicines enter the market. However, it is always worth evaluating whether medicines are cost efficient.

Studies in both the United States back in the late 90s, when all statins were still covered by patents and Italy, which has government supported health care concluded that large-scale use of statins was economically beneficial. The benefits outweighed the costs.

The MBAs who work at the pharmaceutical companies think like this: we should charge what the buyer values the product at, not what it costs. And the long-term value statin usage is undeniably large in some cases. So these MBAs and many economists would conclude that not only should the drug companies charge a high price, but that they almost have a moral obligation to do so. There is also the reasonable explanation that it costs millions of dollars to develop a prescription drug, so they have to charge a high price to recoup the costs, and if corporations weren't allowed to recover costs, they would never produce valuable drugs.

The cost-benefit on a society-wide basis depends not only on who they are prescribed to (high-risk, low-risk, etc), but also whether patients who are prescribed the drugs take them regularly.

Some interesting research has been done on the racial patterns of statin prescriptions. It is known that differences in health care quantity and even diagnosis exists across ethnic and income groups. A paper presented through the American Society of Health Economics showed that for patients with dyslipidemia and congestive heart disease, that Hispanics were 12 to 15 percent less likely to be prescribed statins, and African Americans were 7 percent less likely to get a statin prescription. Doctors in the Northeastern United States prescribe statins more often than doctors in the rest of the country. Both Medicare and Medicaid pay for statin medicines and generic statins are inexpensive enough that health insurance companies rarely object. People who use health savings accounts can use the money in those accounts to pay for statins.

Tbe British National Health System revised its guidelines in mid 2008 and now recommends expanded use of statins. A 2012 study found that statins cost about five times as much in the US as they do in the UK.

The growth of the generics as a percentage of the statin market is expected to reduce the total global market from $19.7 billion to $12.2 bilion between 2012 to 2017 according to GBI research.


Cholesterol drugs will continue to be market leader for a decade: report


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