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16-01-2012 | Cardiometabolic | Article

Statin costs in the US four times higher than the UK


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MedWire News: The cost of statins in the USA is more than four times higher than comparable costs paid by the government in the UK, report researchers.

The team also found that available generic statins were "substantially less expensive" than those that were still under patent in both countries.

Hershel Jick (Boston University School of Medicine, Lexington, Massachusetts, USA) and colleagues compared the annual cost of statins in the USA and the UK using data from MarketScan Commercial Claims and Encounters Database and the UK General Practice Research Database, respectively.

Of an estimated 280,000 people in each country who were prescribed at least one drug in 2005, 33% were prescribed a statin in the USA compared with 24% in the UK.

The total annual cost of the continuous receipt of statins in the US was estimated to be $64.9 million (€51.2) compared with $15.7 million (€12.4) in the UK.

The lowest estimated cost per pill in the US was for generic lovastatin, at $0.93 (€0.73). This compared with $0.45 (€0.36) for generic simvastatin in the UK.

The highest cost in the US was for non-generic simvastatin, at $3.91 (€3.09) per pill, while in the UK the most costly statin was non-generic atorvastatin, at $1.40 (€1.10).

"It should be noted that although the cost of statins is substantially higher in the US than in the UK, an increase in cardiovascular health benefits from higher usage, although uncertain, could be substantially larger as well," writes the team.

In an addendum to their paper, Jick et al say that in June 2006, the US Food and Drug Administration approved generic simvastatin. They therefore derived cost estimates for simvastatin for 2006.

They found that the estimated cost per pill was similar to that for 2005 during the first 6 months of 2006. However, in the last 6 months after the approval more than 60% of simvastatin users switched from the non-generic to the generic form and the resultant estimated cost per pill decreased by more than 50%. "It was nevertheless still some four times higher than that in the UK," they note.

Jick and team suggest that the availability and utilization of generics may have contributed to the disparity in costs observed. "Only generic lovastatin, which was used by just 5% of statin users, was available in the US in 2005. By contrast, two drugs, simvastatin and pravastatin, prescribed to 48% of statin users were available as generics in the UK."

The findings are published in Pharmacotherapy.

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2012

By Nikki Withers