Pills cheaper for hospitals than intravenous drugs
Switching hospitalized patients from intravenous medicines to pill forms could save millions of dollars a year, new Johns Hopkins research suggests.
The study looked at the financial savings of of swapping four drugs at the Baltimore hospital and found a $1.1 million savings at the Department of Medicine. The study, published in the journal of Clinical Therapeutics, didn't include surgical patients.
The researchers said the savings could be even greater.
“Our study looked at just four drugs administered by one department in one hospital in one year and found more than a million dollars in potential savings,” Brandyn D. Lau, a medical informatics specialist at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the study’s leader said in a statement. “Imagine if every hospital took a hard look at substituting oral medications for IV ones whenever possible. We’re talking about an enormous financial impact, with no risk to patients.”
According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, about $293.2 billion in 2009, or 12 percen,t of U.S. health care expenditures were for medications and nondurable medical products.
Lau says a large-scale switch to oral medications has the potential to not only decrease costs, but also to reduce the need for puncturing veins to insert intravenous tubes or medications directly, procedures that carry a higher risk of hospital-acquired bloodstream infections, and longer hospital stays.
Simple reminders to physicians that their patients may be eligible to switch medication types could yield large savings, the researchers said.
The four medications reviewed in the study were chlorothiazide (a medication used to treat high blood pressure and address fluid retention), voriconazole (an anti-fungal), levetiracetam (to stop seizures) and pantoprazole (for acid reflux).
To implement the swaps, Lau says hospitals with computerized medication systems could add alerts to their programs that would appear when a patient on an IV medication meets eligibility criteria for oral medication intake.