Do drug formulary policies reflect evidence of value? Academic Article uri icon


  • To investigate the extent to which preferred drug lists and tiered formularies reflect evidence of value, as measured in published cost-utility analyses (CUAs). Using 1998-2001 data from a large registry of cost-effectiveness analyses, we examined the 2004 Florida Medicaid preferred drug list and the 2004 Harvard Pilgrim Pharmacy Program 3-tier formulary, and compared cost-utility ratios (standardized to 2002 US dollars) of drugs with preferred and nonpreferred status. Few drugs on the formularies had any cost-utility data available. Of those that did, median cost-utility ratios were somewhat higher (less favorable) for Florida's preferred drugs compared with the nonpreferred drugs (25,465 dollars vs 13,085 dollars; P = .09). Ratios did not differ for drugs on tiers 1 and 2 of the Harvard Pilgrim formulary, although they were higher for tier 3 and for excluded drugs (18,309 dollars, 18,846 dollars, 52,119 dollars, and 22,580 dollars, respectively; P = .01). Among therapies reported to be cost-saving or to have cost-utility ratios below 50,000 dollars, 77% had favored status in Florida Medicaid and 73% in Harvard Pilgrim. Among dominated drug interventions (reported to be more costly and less effective than alternatives), 95% had favored status in Florida Medicaid and 56% in Harvard Pilgrim. This study underscores the paucity of published cost-utility data available to formulary committees. Some discrepancies prevail between the value of drugs, as reflected in published cost-utility ratios, and the formulary placement policies of 2 large health plans.

publication date

  • January 1, 2006