NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


September 23, 2004

Using prescription medicines to treat high blood pressure (hypertension) among untreated and undertreated Medicare beneficiaries would save 77,000 lives a year by avoiding heart attacks and strokes, according to a new study conducted by actuaries and clinicians from the independent actuarial firm, Milliman, Inc.

The Milliman study finds that, beginning in 2006 with the initiation of the Medicare prescription drug benefit, active and continuous drug treatment of 19 million untreated and undertreated beneficiaries suffering from hypertension would result annually in:

  • No additional health care costs.
  • Some 77,000 fewer deaths, 115,000 fewer strokes and 106,000 fewer heart attacks.
  • As a result, there would be 46,000 fewer skilled-nursing facility admissions; and 4,000 fewer long-term care facility placements.

Researchers found that the annual increased cost and the annual reduced medical expenses are worth about $7.4 billion each. Additionally, more money would be saved if people could be persuaded to diet and exercise. The researchers assume that everyone would take their pills as directed, but the report acknowledged this does not always happen. Experts agree: Patients often fail to take their drugs as directed and/or fill their prescriptions.

Hypertension puts the lives of millions of seniors at risk, says Alan F. Holmer, president and CEO of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), which commissioned the study. By avoiding heart attacks and strokes, fewer Medicare beneficiaries would be admitted to hospitals and nursing homes, and more could live longer, more independent lives.

Source: "Treating Blood Pressure Pays for Itself-Study," Reuters Group, September 14, 2004.


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