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October 27, 2011

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.

Posted by Andrea Walker at 12:11 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Drugs


This is good information, but many of us did this years ago for al types of drugs, including the drugs mentioned. It was the right thing to do to control costs, but deliver drugs that were effecive in the oral formulation. I worked at a hospital that was one of the fastest convertors to oral therapy in Community Acquired Pneumonia and we measured outcomes, so we knew there was not adverse outcomes in patients. We also worked with the physicians and dieticsians to use more enteral tube feedings and less TPN/PPN.

Sounds good, unless the patient has nausea or the drug needs to be in the system ASAP.

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About Picture of Health
Meredith CohnMeredith Cohn has been a reporter since 1991, covering everything from politics and airlines to the environment and medicine. A runner since junior high and a particular eater for almost as long, she tries to keep up on health and fitness trends. Her aim is to bring you the latest news and information from the local and national medical and wellness communities.

Andrea K. WalkerAndrea K. Walker knows it’s weird to some people, but she has a fascination with fitness, diseases, medicine and other health-related topics. She subscribes to a variety of health and fitness magazines and becomes easily engrossed in the latest research in health and science. An exercise fanatic, she’s probably tried just about every fitness activity there is. Her favorites are running, yoga and kickboxing. So it is probably fitting that she has been assigned to cover the business of healthcare and to become a regular contributor to this blog. Andrea has been at The Sun for nearly 10 years, covering manufacturing, retail , airlines and small and minority business. She looks forward to telling readers about the latest health news.

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