Costs of Cardiovascular Disease Enough to Make Your Heart Race

Cost of treating heart disease dramatically rising in the U.S. and Canada

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Costs associated with treating heart disease and heart conditions increased more than 200 percent in Canada from 1996 to 2006, and are expected to triple in the U.S. by 2030.

The panel of cost experts estimated future medical costs based on current rates of disease. They utilized Census data for adjustments in population changes in age and race, and said more effective prevention strategies are needed to ease the growing burden of heart disease.

The panel predicts costs for heart disease will rise from $273 billion to $818 billion, based on 2008 dollar values, in the next 20 years. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States and accounts for 17 percent of overall national health expenditures.

Paul Heidenreich, M.D., chair of the American Heart Association expert panel, said that despite recent success in reducing and treating cardiovascular diseases such as high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke over the past half-century, "we will have an enormous financial burden on top of the disease itself," even if current rates are maintained.

Meanwhile Canada faces its own heart-disease related economic burden.

A new study found the country's healthcare system could have saved $77 million dollars in 2006 if it had adopted more restrictive cardiovascular drug policies by replacing prescriptions for more expensive blood-pressure drugs with prescriptions for less expensive but just-as-effective medications. From 1996 to 2006, drug costs to treat cardiovascular conditions rose by 200 percent, marked in part by prescriptions for angiotensin-receptor blockers (ARBs, used to treat hypertension), which increased 4000 percent.

Aangiotensin-receptor blockers are considerably more expensive than another type of hypertensive treatment, angiotensin-converting-enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, but are no more effective at treating high blood pressure, heart failure or the secondary prevention of coronary artery disease. The only advantage ARBs hold over ACE inhibitors is a reduction in benign, dry cough, according to the report.

"Measures are needed to deal with the rising health care costs," wrote the authors, given future economic uncertainties complicated by the demographic shift to an older population with a relatively shrinking tax base.

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Review Date: 
January 25, 2011
Last Updated:
January 26, 2011