Using cholestyramine as a model, we considered the cost-effectiveness of antihyperlipemic therapy in the primary prevention of coronary heart disease among men between 35 and 74 years of age with elevated levels of total plasma cholesterol. Our findings indicate that the cost-effectiveness of treatment varies substantially, ranging from about $36 000 to over $1 million per year of life saved. Cost-effectiveness was highest for younger patients, for those with additional coronary risk factors (eg, smoking or hypertension), and for those whose course of therapy is of less-than-lifelong duration. Conversely, it is lowest for older patients, for those with no additional coronary risk factors, and for those who are treated for a lifetime. Our results suggest that pharmacologic therapy may not be cost-effective for all patients with elevated cholesterol levels, especially those over 65 years of age. For many younger patients, however—those with additional coronary risk factors and more severe elevations in cholesterol levels—the cost-effectiveness of therapy may be comparable with other accepted medical practices.
Oster G, Epstein AM. Cost-effectiveness of Antihyperlipemic Therapy in the Prevention of Coronary Heart DiseaseThe Case of Cholestyramine. JAMA. 1987;258(17):2381-2387. doi:10.1001/jama.1987.03400170067025