Proposed guidance on cost-avoidance studies in pharmacy practice

Asad E Patanwala, Sujita W. Narayan, Curtis E. Haas, Ivo Abraham, Arthur Sanders, Brian L. Erstad

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Purpose: Cost-avoidance studies of pharmacist interventions are common and often the first type of study conducted by investigators to quantify the economic impact of clinical pharmacy services. The purpose of this primer is to provide guidance for conducting cost-avoidance studies pertaining to clinical pharmacy practice. Summary: Cost-avoidance studies represent a paradigm conceptually different from traditional pharmacoeconomic analysis. A cost-avoidance study reports on cost savings from a given intervention, where the savings is estimated based on a counterfactual scenario. Investigators need to determine what specifically would have happened to the patient if the intervention did not occur. This assessment can be fundamentally flawed, depending on underlying assumptions regarding the pharmacists' action and the patient trajectory. It requires careful identification of the potential consequence of nonaction, as well as probability and cost assessment. Given the uncertainty of assumptions, sensitivity analyses should be performed. A step-by-step methodology, formula for calculations, and best practice guidance is provided. Conclusions: Cost-avoidance studies focused on pharmacist interventions should be considered low-level evidence. These studies are acceptable to provide pilot data for the planning of future clinical trials. The guidance provided in this article should be followed to improve the quality and validity of such investigations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1559-1567
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Journal of Health-System Pharmacy
Issue number17
StatePublished - Sep 1 2021


  • costs and costs analysis
  • drug-related side effects and adverse reactions
  • medication errors
  • patient safety
  • pharmacists

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacy
  • Pharmacology
  • Health Policy


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