Cost-effective Reduction of Neuromuscular-blocking Drug Expenditures

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Background:Anesthetic drug expenditures have been a focus of cost-containment efforts. The aim of this study was to determine whether expenditures for neuromuscular-blocking agents could be reduced without compromising outcome, and to determine whether such a cost-effective pattern of neuromuscular blocker use could be sustained.Methods:Education, practice guidelines, and paperwork barriers were used to persuade anesthesiologists to substitute low-cost neuromuscular-blocking drugs (pancuronium or a metocurine-pancuronium combination) for a more costly neuromuscular-blocking drug (vecuronium). Neuromuscular-blocking drug use in all patients during a historical control period (6 months; n = 4,804) was compared with that during two consecutive 1-yr periods of intervention (n = 9,761/n = 10,695). Expenditures for vecuronium and for all neuromuscular-blocking drugs were compared for the control and intervention periods. The rate of complications related to neuromuscular-blocking drugs was determined by an ongoing continuous quality improvement program.Results:Vecuronium use decreased by 76% during the first and second yr of intervention, compared with the historical period (P <0.01). The cost of neuromuscular-blocking drugs decreased by 31% (P <0.01) and 47% (P < 0.01) for the first and second yr, respectively. The complication rate related to neuromuscular-blocking drugs was 0.081% in the historical period and 0.11% and 0.093% during the intervention periods (P = 0.29 and 0.41).Conclusion:Practice guidelines, education, and paperwork barriers used together substantially reduced the expenditures for neuromuscular-blocking drugs for 2 yr without adversely affecting clinical outcome.

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