Health Care Costs for Patients with Heart Failure Spike 3-fold in Final Months of Life, While Pharmacy Costs Remain Stable: JMCP

 Alexandria, Va., Dec. 14, 2016 — Total costs of treating heart-failure (HF) patients escalate nearly three-fold in the final six months of life, driven overwhelmingly by hospitalizations. Pharmacy costs, meanwhile, remained relatively constant during this time, according to a new study in the Journal of Managed Care & Specialty Pharmacy.

Factors associated with higher HF costs in the final months of life include older age, comorbid coronary heart disease, and lack of outpatient pharmacotherapy, according to the study of more than 48,000 patients in both commercial and Medicare Advantage Prescription Drug Plans. The study was published in the December 2016 issue of JMCP, the official journal of the Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy.

Given that all-cause pharmacy costs remained relatively low and stable during the six months before death, optimizing pharmacotherapy as part of early intervention in disease management may reduce overall HF health care costs, including by reducing hospitalizations, the study authors suggest.

Heart failure is a common and severe chronic disease, affecting approximately 5.7 million people within the U.S., and the prevalence is expected to exceed 8 million by 2030. Total annual expenditures are expected to rise to $70 billion by 2030, according to the study.

Health care decision makers may use cost information from this study in assessing the value of innovative HF interventions. The study also addresses the complexity and burden of end-of-life care among patients with heart failure and may reveal opportunities to reassess the role of HF pharmacotherapy in the context of end-of-life disease management.

Authors are Engels N. Obi, BPharm, PhD; Jason P. Swindle, PhD, MPH; Stuart J. Turner, BPharm, MPH; Patricia A. Russo, PhD, MSW, RN; and Aylin Altan, PhD. Read the study at

About JMCPThe Journal of Managed Care & Specialty Pharmacy publishes peer-reviewed original research manuscripts, subject reviews, and other content intended to advance the use of the scientific method, including the interpretation of research findings in managed care pharmacy. It is dedicated to improving the quality of patient care by providing its readers with the results of scientific investigation and evaluation of clinical, health, service, and economic outcomes of pharmacy services and pharmaceutical interventions, including formulary management.