Costs and Benefits of Free Medications after Myocardial Infarction

Authors: 
Irfan A. Dhalla, Monique A. Smith, Niteesh K. Choudhry, Avram E. Denburg
Research Summary: 

Background
Although combination pharmacotherapy after myocardial infarction dramatically reduces morbidity and mortality, the full benefits of secondary prevention medications remain unrealized owing to medication non-adherence. Because financial barriers are a major determinant of non-adherence, we examined the costs and benefits of providing free medications to myocardial infarction patients who do not have private insurance and are ineligible for substantial public coverage.

Methods
An economic evaluation combining decision analysis and Markov modelling was conducted to compare full public coverage of secondary prevention medications with the status quo. Costs and benefits were estimated using Canadian data wherever possible. The main outcome was the incremental cost-effectiveness ratio measured in cost per quality-adjusted life-year (QALY) gained.

Results
From the perspective of the publicly funded healthcare system, full coverage resulted in greater quality-adjusted survival than the status quo (7.02 vs. 6.13 QALYs) but at increased cost ($20,423 vs. $17,173). The incremental cost-effectiveness ratio (ICER) for full coverage compared to the status quo was $3,663/QALY. This result was robust to a wide range of sensitivity analyses. In a secondary analysis from the perspective of government, the ICER for full coverage compared to the status quo was $12,350/QALY. In this analysis, the ICER was sensitive to changes in price elasticity, but remained below $50,000/QALY as long as the elasticity remained below ñ0.035.

Interpretation
Public payers in Canada should consider providing secondary prevention medications to myocardial infarction patients without private insurance free of charge. Full public coverage is cost-effective compared to the status quo.