Assessing the use of anticoagulant drugs in the Medicare population

Atrial fibrillation is the most common form of cardiac arrhythmia, better known as an irregular heartbeat. The disorder has significant health and cost concerns for the Medicare population because of its association with an increased risk for stroke and all-cause mortality.

A study published in the May/June issue of American Health & Drug Benefits by Milliman’s Kate Fitch, Jonah Broulette, Bruce Pyenson, and Kosuke Iwasaki used Medicare Part D claims data to assess the use of the anticoagulant drug warfarin in the Medicare population.

Here is an excerpt highlighting key points from the study entitled “Utilization of Anticoagulation Therapy in Medicare Patients with Nonvalvular Atrial Fibrillation:”

• Patients with atrial fibrillation (AF) are at a significant, 5-fold increased risk for stroke and all cause mortality compared with those without AF.

• Oral anticoagulation therapy is recommended by national guidelines as the cornerstone for stroke prevention in patients with AF.

• Warfarin significantly reduces the risk for ischemic stroke; newer anticoagulant agents have shown even greater reduction of stroke risk compared to warfarin.

• Although AF risk increases with age, this present study shows that anticoagulation therapy is underutilized in Medicare beneficiaries who have nonvalvular AF (NVAF), resulting in an increase in ischemic strokes.

• These findings suggest the need to follow guideline-based anticoagulation recommendations in patients with NVAF to prevent strokes and the associated excess in healthcare costs, reduced quality of life, and even death.

• These findings also raise the need to investigate provider compliance with clinical guidelines regarding oral anticoagulation therapy for stroke prevention in older patients (aged >65 years) with NVAF.

A copy of the entire study can be read here.

Winghan Jacqueline Kwong, of Daiichi Sankyo Inc. also co-authored the study.