Health Services Research & Development

Veterans Crisis Line Badge
Go to the ORD website
Go to the QUERI website

IIR 15-139 – HSR&D Study

New | Current | Completed | DRA | DRE | Portfolios/Projects | Centers | Career Development Projects

IIR 15-139
Cost-Effectiveness of Dabigatran and Warfarin for Veterans with Afib
Hillary J Mull PhD MPP
VA Boston Healthcare System Jamaica Plain Campus, Jamaica Plain, MA
Boston, MA
Funding Period: October 2016 - September 2019

Atrial fibrillation (AF) treatment focuses on the prevention of blood clots to reduce the risk of stroke. Vitamin K antagonists (e.g., warfarin) have successfully reduced the risk of stroke but the effectiveness of these methods are hampered by narrow therapeutic ranges and the need for monthly laboratory monitoring for dose adjustment to prevent over-anticoagulation and subsequent hemorrhage. Since 2010, two new classes of target specific oral anti-coagulants (TSOACs), thrombin inhibitors (e.g., dabigatran) and Xa inihibitors, entered the market. Clinical trials provide good evidence that the TSOACs are either superior or not inferior to warfarin on a variety of outcomes. Initial cost-effectiveness studies based on these clinical trial results have concluded these drugs may be cost-effective. It is unknown whether the health and cost advantages of TSOACs found in clinical trials will be maintained in clinical practice since these trials enroll healthier patients and maintain better adherence.

We will infer causal relationships between treatments for AF, outcomes, and cost.
Objective 1. Estimate relationships between provider or facility-level prescribing variation and AF treatment selection controlling for process quality.
Objective 2. Estimate instrumental variable (IV) and propensity score statistical models of outcomes as a function of being prescribed warfarin compared to TSOACs.
Objective 3. Using the preferred specification between IV or propensity score models in Objective 2, predict health outcomes as a function of being prescribed warfarin compared to TSOACs among relevant sub-populations (e.g., age>75).
Objective 4. Estimate total VA, Medicare, and VA+Medicare costs over the entire study period for patients receiving warfarin compared to TSOACs.

This is a retrospective observational study of secondary data from patient-level administrative and claims data from VA, Medicare, and Medicaid. VA pharmacy data will be used to determine whether patients with a new diagnosis of AF between 2011 and 2015 initiate warfarin or a TSOAC.

Patients will be assigned to the provider that initially prescribes anticoagulation therapy. Provider prescribing patterns will be used as an instrumental variable to predict the likelihood of an individual initiating warfarin or a TSOAC, controlling for process quality (Objective 1). Residuals will be captured from the equations estimated in Objective 1 for the remaining objectives.
Objectives 2 and 3 will use two-stage residual inclusion instrumental variable or propensity score models to identify the causal relationship between initiating warfarin or a TSOAC and health outcomes.
Objective 4 will use similar models to predict VA and Medicare costs and determine the most cost-effective treatment.

The first question was whether patients with AF were prescribed an oral anticoagulant (OAC). Overall, 48% of Veterans with AF were prescribed an OAC within 90 days of diagnosis. Among 130 VHA facilities, significant facility-level variation in OAC prescription rates remained even when controlling for individual characteristics. Facility rates of guideline concordant prescribing varies between 14.6% to 72.1% (median =46.3%). Elderly patients are less likely to initiate treatment while Black and Hispanic patients are more likely to be prescribed an OAC after a new AF episode.

An estimated 2.7 million individuals in the United States were diagnosed with AF. These individuals are estimated to have a five-fold increased risk of ischemic stroke. The proposed cost-effectiveness study compares warfarin to TSOACs for a Veteran population. Results will increase access to the most effective treatments for veterans and help VA policymakers develop evidence-based guidelines for AF treatment.

None at this time.

DRA: Aging, Older Veterans' Health and Care, Health Systems
DRE: Treatment - Observational
Keywords: Comparative Effectiveness, Cost-Effectiveness, Medication Management, Practice Patterns/Trends
MeSH Terms: none