BACKGROUND: Clinical trials indicate that direct oral anticoagulants (DOACs) are as effective as warfarin at preventing ischaemic stroke. It is unclear, however, whether relative changes in DOAC uptake have affected clinical and economic outcomes in practice.
AIM: To investigate variations in DOAC uptake and the relationship with hospital admissions and cost.
DESIGN & SETTING: An ecological study using electronic administrative records from England, April 2012 to March 2017.
METHOD: Multivariable regression was used to model practice variation in DOAC prescribing, and the relationship with clinical and economic outcomes.
RESULTS: In quarter 1 of 2017, 55.0% of the 2 695 262 patients dispensed an anticoagulant were given a DOAC. There was a two-fold difference in odds of dispensing DOACs between clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) between those with the highest and lowest usage of these drugs. Increases in the relative uptake of DOACs were not associated with hospital admissions for ischaemic stroke (adjusted incidence rate ratio [IRR] = 1.00; 95% confidence intervals [CI] = 0.999 to 1.001), nor gastrointestinal or intracranial bleeds (IRR = 1.001; 95% CI = 1.000 to 1.002). In 2017, quarter 1, CCGs spent £9247 (inter-quartile range £7751 to £10 853) per 1000 patients on anticoagulants. The marginal effect of a 5% increase in DOAC uptake was associated with a £17.95 (£8.75 to £27.15) increase in total costs, per 1000 patient population.
CONCLUSION: There were significant differences in the relative uptake of DOACs across practices, with greater costs but no reduction in hospital admissions in those with higher levels of dispensing. Findings indicate that clinical and economic benefits of DOACs identified by clinical trials are not realised in practice.