Results of a comprehensive comparison of prescription drug cost study between the United States and United Kingdom has found that U.S. patients under the age of 65, who have private health insurance, pay 400 percent more for statin drugs than those under the U.K. government health program.

The study was published in the online Journal Pharmacotherapy.

Statin drugs are used to lower cholesterol. Statins interfere with the production of cholesterol in the liver, they lower bad cholesterol levels and raise good cholesterol levels and can slow the formation of plaques in the arteries, according the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) and National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Data from the study by the Boston University School of Medicine’s (BUSM) Boston Collaborative Drug Surveillance Program used two large electronic data bases in the U.S. and U.K. Cost were measured from private health insurance claims in the U.S, and general practice research database in the U.K. the study sampled over 280,000 people ages 55-64 in each country.

Researchers found statins were prescribed 32.7 percent in the U.S. and 24.4 percent in the U.K.

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) survey found that the percentage of adults 45 years and older who use statins increased from 2% between 1988 and 1994 to 25% between 2005 and 2008. Further findings from the study indicated that half of men aged 65 to 74 years had taken a statin in between 2005 and 2008 compared with more than one-third of women in the same age group.

Estimated annual cost of statins in the U.S. ranged from a high of $1,428 for simvastatin to low of $314 for lovastatin. In the U.K the annual cost was $500 for atorvastatin to $164 for simvastatin. The estimated cost per pill was twice as high for each statin prescribed in both countries.

The annual cost of statins for each country users averaged $69.5 million by private insurance companies in the US. In the U.K estimated annual cost for statin users covered by the government was $15.7 million.

"In addition to differences in overall statin use and per unit costs, another significant factor contributing to the disparity of costs appears to be the availability and utilization of generics," said Hershel Jick, MD, lead author, Director Emeritus of BUSM's Collaborative Drug Surveillance Program.

Although many users switched from brand name statin to generics. Statin cost was still four times higher in the U.S. than that of U.K., according to researchers.