Objectives:To describe a medical center policy designed to contain the cost of using the lipid-lowering drug lovastatin in a primary care setting, to examine the effect of the policy on cost containment, and to examine physician acceptance of the policy. Setting:A Veterans Affairs medical center. Interventions:The policy made lovastatin available to physicians when failure of therapy with diet and two first-line drugs was documented on an order form. The form also contained educational information including prices and recommended niacin as the drug treatment of first choice for most patients. Design:To evaluate the effect of the policy, lipid-lowering drug use at the medical center was compared with that at a similar center that did not restrict lovastatin use, and with lipid-lowering drug use in the United States as a whole. A written questionnaire was used to survey physician reaction to the policy. Results:The use of lovastatin as a percentage of total lipid-lowering drug use at the center with the lovastatin policy was one-fourth that at the other center or nationwide, and the use of niacin was four times greater (p<0.0001). The estimated savings in drug costs to the center with the lovastatin policy due to these differences was more than $30,000 per year. In the survey of physicians affected by the policy (n=78, response rate =100%), less than one-fourth viewed it unfavorably, and 90% favored this policy over restricting the drug to a subspecialty clinic. Conclusion:The authors' experience indicates that a formulary policy that permits limited use of an expensive drug in a primary care setting can contain costs in a way that is acceptable to physicians. A policy of this type could be useful to the increasing number of health care provider organizations that cover the cost of outpatient medications.
- Pharmacy and Therapeutics Committee
- cost control
- lipid-lowering drug