Beta blockers cost effective to society for heart failure treatment

DURHAM, N.C. -- Beta blocker therapy for the treatment of heart failure can provide significant cost savings for the health-care system, according to a new analysis by researchers at the Duke Clinical Research Institute (DCRI).

Beta blocker therapy reduced societal costs by $3,959 per patient over five years, the study showed. However, while the costs to Medicare declined by $6,064 per patient, the cost to the individual patient increased by $2,113 over five years because Medicare currently does not cover the cost of prescription medications. Congress enacted a Medicare prescription drug benefit in November 2003, but this will not take full effect until 2006. Even then, beneficiaries in many cases will still pay a significant amount of the cost of prescription medications.

The study, published in the Jan. 15, 2004, issue of The American Journal of Medicine, was funded by a grant from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, to the Duke Center for Education and Research on Therapeutics.

The study developed a model of heart failure progression over five years. The authors used clinical trial data to establish the effect of beta blockers on mortality and hospitalizations. Estimates of hospital costs were obtained from the Duke University Medical Center, and physician fees were based on the Medicare fee schedule. The data was used to assess the economic effects of beta blocker therapy for heart failure patients from societal, Medicare, hospital, physician and patient perspectives.

"Our study suggests beta blocker therapy is both clinically and financially beneficial over the long term from a societal standpoint," said Robert Califf, M.D., senior author of the study and director of DCRI. "The clinical benefit of beta blockers is unquestioned. The issue here is that hospitals and physicians have no clear financial incentives to support increased beta blocker use. Changes i

Contact: Richard Puff
Duke University Medical Center

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