Euroaspire studies health and economic impact of heart disease
3 Sept 2010
The multinational EUROASPIRE III project aims to find out to
what extent a focus on prevention can reduce both the health and
economic impact of cardiovascular disease (CVD).
In Europe, more than four million deaths are directly caused by
CVD each year. Not only is it the main cause of death in the
continent, treatment of CVD also consumes a significant proportion
of national healthcare budgets.
Consequently, it imposes a huge burden on both the patients
affected and the wider society that foots the bill. Yet through
improved control of risk factors, as described in clinical practice
guidelines issued by the Joint European Societies, cardiovascular
prevention can reduce the impact of CVD.
Lowering the risk can be achieved by modifying lifestyle
(for instance by undertaking more physical activity or by stopping
smoking), as well as through the use of statins, antiplatelet
therapies, antithrombotic strategies, ACE inhibitors and β-blockers.
Research lead, Professor Lieven Annemans of Ghent University,
recognises the growing conflict between what societies are able to
pay for healthcare and the population’s need for that healthcare.
Speaking at the European Society of Cardiology Congress
last week, he said, “Societies can no longer afford to pay for major
investments in health that deliver only minor benefits. We need to
think in terms of health economics, and find the best way to spend
the monies available in order to produce as much ‘health’ as
possible. Healthcare needs to be seen almost as a productive sector,
where the aim is to ensure that people live longer and more
In this scenario, priority would be given to those interventions
that result in the greatest amount of health for the money that is
invested — in simple terms, interventions that are the most
cost-effective or can prove their value. In Europe, this concept of
cost-effectiveness is gaining more and more appeal, and it has an
increasing influence upon the pricing and reimbursing of
technologies, drugs and interventions.
To evaluate health economics, the net costs of investments are
compared with the current alternatives, and the ratio between net
costs and net health benefits is then assessed. Many countries have
developed guidelines to assist researchers in conducting health
economic evaluations, but not all countries handle the assessment of
technologies, drugs and interventions in the same way.
In some, health economic evaluations are mandatory, while in
others, they are merely recommended. And some countries do not
regard them as important at all. Healthcare decision makers,
however, consider them very useful.
Seven European countries (Belgium, Bulgaria, Finland, France,
Italy, Poland and the UK) are participating in the EUROASPIRE III
health economics study. Professor Annemans says, “Through this
study, our aim is to assess the cost-effectiveness of prevention in
patients with and without established CVD, by following the Joint
European Societies’ guidelines.
"It will tackle both primary and secondary prevention of
cardiovascular disease in two separate analyses. The study will also
help to identify the drivers of the relationship between the costs
and effects of prevention, and will also model the health and
economic outcomes of prevention compared with the current