When it comes to preventing stroke, millions of Americans with irregular heartbeats face a choice: Take one of the powerful but pricey new pills they see advertised on TV, or a much cheaper 60-year-old drug that can be a hassle to take, and doesn’t prevent stroke as well.
It does not seem like much of a contest — until you do the math. Which is what a Michigan team has done.
For the first time, they looked at how cost-effective the two choices are from a patient’s-eye view, as well as the viewpoint of insurers such as Medicare. They took into account how well the drugs prevent stroke, the side effects they both cause, the cost of the drugs and the monitoring, and the cost of caring for a stroke.
In the end, they found, the prescription drug coverage a patient has matters most.
Those without coverage, who could pay thousands of dollars out of pocket for the newer drug, may not get enough extra stroke-preventing benefit to make the money worthwhile to them.
But for the 70 percent of Medicare participants who buy extra insurance coverage to help them pay for prescriptions, the newer drugs are probably worth it, even though their insurance plan may charge more for them. And that means doctors and patients need to work together to choose carefully based on their individual circumstances and coverage.
The study focused on the use of clot-preventing blood thinner drugs called anticoagulants in patients over age 65 who have a condition called atrial fibrillation that raises stroke risk greatly. The researchers have published their results online in the American Journal of Cardiology.
For more information, including a list of co-authors on the study, click here.