Research Article

Cost effectiveness of incremental programmes for lowering serum cholesterol concentration: is individual intervention worth while?

BMJ 1991; 302 doi: (Published 11 May 1991) Cite this as: BMJ 1991;302:1119
  1. I S Kristiansen,
  2. A E Eggen,
  3. D S Thelle
  1. Institute of Community Medicine, University of Tromsø, Norway.


    OBJECTIVE--To evaluate the relative cost effectiveness of various cholesterol lowering programmes. DESIGN--Retrospective analysis. SETTING--Norwegian cholesterol lowering programme in Norwegian male population aged 40-49 (n = 200,000), whose interventions comprise a population based promotion of healthier eating habits, dietary treatment (subjects with serum cholesterol concentration 6.0-7.9 mmol/l), and dietary and drug treatment combined (serum cholesterol concentration greater than or equal to 8.0 mmol/l). MAIN OUTCOME MEASURE--Marginal cost effectiveness ratios--that is, the ratio of net treatment costs (cost of treatment minus savings in treatment costs for coronary heart disease) to life years gained and to quality of life years (QALYs) saved. RESULTS--The cost per life year gained over 20 years of a population based strategy was projected to be 12 pounds. For an individual strategy based on dietary treatment the cost was about 12,400 pounds per life year gained and 111,600 pounds if drugs were added for 50% of the subjects with serum cholesterol concentrations greater than or equal to 8.0 mmol/l. CONCLUSIONS--The results underline the importance of marginal cost effectiveness analyses for incremental programmes of health care. The calculations of QALYs, though speculative, indicate that individual intervention should be implemented cautiously and within more selected groups than currently recommended. Drugs should be reserved for subjects with genetic hypercholesterolaemia or who are otherwise at very high risk of arteriosclerotic disease.