, Volume 20, Issue 14, pp 963-977
Date: 21 Sep 2012

Pharmacoeconomic Considerations in Assessing and Selecting Congestive Heart Failure Therapies

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Abstract

Over the last two decades the incidence of congestive heart failure (CHF) has increased with aging of the population and in spite of the decline in age-adjusted mortality rates due to coronary heart disease. Its management has seen substantial progress, embodied in the introduction of ACE inhibitors, initially as part of triple therapy in which they complemented diuretics and digoxin, and latterly as first-line therapy. The current consensus on treatment of CHF has been based on the multiple clinical studies performed with ACE inhibitors in which these agents have been shown to prevent a new cardiovascular accident and/or progression to more severe CHF in an increasingly wide range of patients with symptomatic CHF or post-infarction left ventricular dysfunction (ejection fraction ≤ 40% in some trials or ≤ 35% in others). Not only have the results shown a marked decrease in all-cause (and especially cardiovascular) mortality, but also a great number of cost-effectiveness analyses have shown the advantages of ACE inhibitors in terms of resource allocation: they are either cost saving or convincingly cost effective compared with standard treatment with digoxin and diuretics.

Other drugs require similar cost and clinical analyses before they can earn their place in an add-on strategy. To date, cost savings have been documented only for β-blockers; implantable devices are still undergoing assessment. Two trends are now competing: one is to downplay add-on strategies and to recommend first-line therapy with ACE inhibitors and β-blockers at effective doses, supplemented by a raft of non-pharmaceutical measures (specialist nurses, patient education, dietary advice, exercise) in a multidisciplinary approach to CHF; the second is, on the contrary, to prescribe up to five drugs for patients with advanced CHF. The evidence that this decreases hospital admission rates and patient cost is more than anecdotal, but conclusive proof of cost effectiveness is still lacking and the approach presupposes dedicated structures.

This review argues that despite technical limitations, a combined approach of CHF therapy based on clinical trials and cost-effectiveness analyses is essential. However, improvements can be made. The absence of sufficient comparative data still makes it difficult to choose between drugs within the same class; institutional purchasers need to conduct such analyses to identify the drugs best suited to their patients’ profiles and budgetary constraints.