NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

JAMA Study: Increase Beta Blocker Use Would Save Lives & Money

January 11, 2001

Heart treatment drugs called beta-blockers that could prevent second heart attacks and deaths from heart disease are still not prescribed for many patients who could benefit. Researchers say increased use of beta-blockers after heart attacks would lead to impressive gains in health and could potentially reduce health care costs.

To show how big the benefits would be, researchers used a computer simulation to estimate the lifesaving impact and cost-effectiveness of increased blocker use among heart attack survivors in the United States over a 20-year period.

  • They found that beta-blocker use for almost all heart attack survivors would result in 72,000 fewer deaths from heart disease and prevent 62,000 heart attacks.
  • Patients would gain 447,000 life-years.
  • The cost-effectiveness of increased beta-blocker use would be less than $11,000 for each Quality Adjusted Life Year (QALY) gained.
  • Under some assumptions, the increased drug treatment could result in a net cost saving of $18 million over 20 years.

Restricting beta-blockers only to ideal patients -- many of whom don't get these drugs now -- would reduce the benefits by about 60 percent. However, recent studies indicate that less-than ideal patients -- those with other chronic or acute conditions -- would also benefit from beta-blocker use.

Source: Kathryn A. Phillips, et al., "Health and Economic Benefits of Increased Beta-Blocker Use Following Myocardial Infarction," Journal of the American Medical Association, December 6, 2000.


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