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Cholesterol-lowering drugs - 'splitting' tablets could save millions

Posted Sep 22 2008 4:35pm

NEW IN Open Medicine RESEARCH: "Tablet splitting of cholesterol-lowering drugs could save Canadians millions of dollars a year" [ link ]

In 2006, approximately $145 million was spent in British Columbia alone on statins—a class of cholesterol-lowering drugs that help to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. A new study, published today in Open Medicine, demonstrates that more than $50 million could have been saved that year from splitting all eligible statin prescriptions—pointing the way to a safe and simple cost-saving measure for patients and drug insurance plans alike.

For many prescription drugs, such as statins, the price per milligram (mg) decreases substantially at higher strengths (for example, a 40 mg tablet will cost less per milligram than a 20 mg tablet). Therefore, tablet splitting represents one way for patients to save on their prescription drug costs. Until this study, however, little was known about how often tablet splitting is done in Canada, whether the practice is driven by physicians, pharmacists or patients, and how splitting relates characteristics such as a patient’s sex, age, income and drug insurance coverage.

Dr. Colin Dormuth, assistant professor in the Anaesthesiology, Pharmacology and Therapeutics Department at the University of British Columbia, and colleagues report that the frequency of splitting statins is low in British Columbia, but the frequency is rising. In 2006, 4.5% of statin prescriptions involved tablet splitting, an increase from 2.6% in 1996. Furthermore, they estimate that the ingredient cost saving from tablet splitting in 2006 was $2.35 million, and that the potential savings from splitting all eligible prescriptions was $51.4 million.

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