Hospital Admissions, Costs, and 30-Day Readmissions Among Newly Diagnosed Nonvalvular Atrial Fibrillation Patients Treated with Dabigatran Etexilate or Warfarin

AUTHORS: Eileen Fonseca, Stephen D. Sander, Gregory P. Hess, Sabyasachi Ghosh



BACKGROUND: Oral anticoagulation such as warfarin and dabigatran is indicated for atrial fibrillation (AF) patients at risk of ischemic stroke. Dabigatran etexilate was developed to address the limitations of warfarin, including the need for regular blood monitoring, which has the potential to lead to higher health care resource use, particularly in hospitalized patients. 

OBJECTIVE: To evaluate whether hospitalization cost, length of hospital stay (LOS), likelihood of readmission within 30 days, and cost of readmissions differed across inpatient encounters among nonvalvular atrial fibrillation (NVAF) patients that were newly diagnosed and newly treated with either dabigatran or warfarin. 

METHODS: A retrospective cohort study was conducted using IMS Health’s Charge Detail Master (CDM) database. Hospitalizations were identified based on a primary or secondary AF diagnosis, dabigatran or warfarin use, and a discharge date from January 2011 through March 2012. The identified patients without valvular procedures and transient AF were required to have a minimum of 12 months of pharmacy and private practitioner records prior to the inpatient encounter to ensure that they were newly treated on dabigatran or warfarin. Propensity score matching was used to balance baseline characteristics between treatment cohorts. Outcomes assessed were LOS, 30-day readmissions, and costs. Because individual patients could have more than 1 hospital observation, generalized estimating equations (GEE) with a gamma distribution (log link) were used for the analysis of continuous outcome measures (e.g., LOS and costs) and a binominal distribution for dichotomous outcomes (hospital readmissions). 

RESULTS: Two cohorts were propensity score matched (1:2) on demographic and clinical characteristics. The dabigatran cohort included 646 hospitalizations, and the warfarin cohort included 1,292 hospitalizations. Hospitalizations were on average 13% shorter (4.8 vs. 5.5 days, P < 0.001) and cost 12% less ($14,794 vs. $16,826, P = 0.007) when dabigatran was used versus warfarin. No differences in 30-day readmissions were observed.

CONCLUSIONS: Hospital encounters among newly diagnosed NVAF patients during which warfarin was initiated had longer lengths of stay and incurred higher costs than those during which dabigatran was initiated.

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