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Does prescribing apixaban or rivaroxaban versus warfarin for patients diagnosed with atrial fibrillation save health system costs? A multivalued treatment effects analysis


Background — Non-valvular atrial fibrillation (AF) is a common heart arrhythmia in the elderly population. AF patients are at high-risk of ischemic strokes, but oral anticoagulant (OAC) therapy reduces such risks. Warfarin had been the standard OAC for AF patients, however its effectiveness is highly variable and dependent on close monitoring of the anticoagulant response. Newer OACs such as rivaroxaban and apixaban address these drawbacks but are more costly. It is uncertain which OAC therapy for AF is cost-saving from the healthcare system perspective.

Methods — We followed a cohort of patients in Ontario, Canada, aged ≥ 66 who were newly diagnosed with AF and prescribed OACs between 2012 and 2017. We used a two-stage estimation procedure. First, we account for the patient selection into OACs using a multinomial logit regression model and estimated propensity scores. Second, we used an inverse probability weighted regression adjustment approach to determine cost-saving OAC options. We also examined component-specific costs (i.e., drug, hospitalization, emergency department and physician) to understand the drivers of cost-saving OACs.

Results — We found that compared to warfarin, rivaroxaban and apixaban treatments were cost-saving options, with per-patient 1-year healthcare cost savings at $2436 and $1764, respectively. These savings were driven by cost-savings in hospitalization, emergency department visits, and physician visits, outweighing higher drug costs. These results were robust to alternative model specifications and estimation procedures.

Conclusions — Treating AF patients with rivaroxaban and apixaban than warfarin reduces healthcare costs. OAC reimbursement policies for AF patients should consider rivaroxaban or apixaban over warfarin as the first-line treatment.



Situ M, Schwarz UI, Zou G, McArthur E, Kim RB, Garg AX, Sarma S. Eur J Health Econ. 2023; May 17 [Epub ahead of print].

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