Enoxaparin. A pharmacoeconomic appraisal of its use in thromboembolic prophylaxis after total hip arthroplasty

C J Dunn, K L Goa
PharmacoEconomics 1996, 10 (2): 179-90
Total hip arthroplasty (THA) is a major orthopaedic procedure with a high risk of postoperative thromboembolism. Increasing demand for this type of surgery, together with its high cost, has led to examination of means by which the cost of THA may be minimised. Current clinical opinion favours the use of suitable pharmacological thromboprophylaxis in patients undergoing THA; such prophylaxis may be provided with subcutaneous standard unfractionated heparin (UFH), oral warfarin or subcutaneous low molecular weight heparin (LMWH). Traditionally, LMWHs have been perceived as being more expensive to use than UFH or warfarin because of their relatively high acquisition cost. However, recent pharmacoeconomic data have shown that cost savings are possible when LMWHs are used. This is attributed mainly to reduced frequency of administration, reductions in costs associated with diagnosis and treatment of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolism (PE), and the lack of need for laboratory monitoring of blood coagulation parameters. LMWHs have proportionally less anti-factor IIa (antithrombin) activity relative to anti-factor Xa activity than UFH. Enoxaparin, a LMWH with a mean molecular weight of 4 to 5kD, is reported to have approximately 5 times less activity against thrombin than UFH, for equivalent anti-factor Xa activity. Randomised clinical trials in patients undergoing THA have shown enoxaparin to be at least as effective as UFH in the prevention of DVT and PE, with consistent trends towards a lower incidence of DVT with enoxaparin than with UFH. Similar rates of haemorrhagic complications were reported for enoxaparin and UFH in most trials, although a significantly higher total transfusion requirement was reported for UFH than for enoxaparin in a double-blind study. A significantly higher incidence of bleeding was observed with UFH than with enoxaparin in another study, with similar transfusion requirements for both treatment groups. Cost comparisons in which costs were assigned retrospectively to clinical data have shown cost advantages for LMWHs in general over UFH when costs of administration, hospital bed occupancy and laboratory/radiology procedures are calculated. Cost savings with LMWHs were attributed mainly to reductions in the cost of managing thromboembolic complications in patients receiving these drugs. One meta-analysis showed a saving of $US50 000 (1993 figures) for LMWH over UFH (both subcutaneously twice daily) for every 1000 patients. Subcutaneous enoxaparin at a dosage of 30mg twice daily was shown to be more cost effective than oral warfarin in the prophylaxis of DVT and PE in 2 North American studies in which costs were related to outcomes. One study comprised the application of a decision analysis to a hypothetical group of 10 000 patients; an incremental cost effectiveness of $US12 288 (1993 figures) per death averted was reported for enoxaparin. Enoxaparin was also associated with an overall incremental cost effectiveness of $Can29 140 (1992 figures) per year of life saved (YLS) in the other study, in which costs were applied to clinical data obtained retrospectively from 10 randomised trials. Although no cost-effectiveness analyses have been carried out to compare enoxaparin with UFH, a UK cost comparison reported an overall cost saving of pounds 20 per patient (figures from 1989 to 1990) with enoxaparin 40mg once daily subcutaneously over subcutaneous UFH 5000IU 3 times daily. It has also been suggested that the use of once- or twice-daily enoxaparin in preference to UFH may reduce the overall length of hospital stay; a significant difference emerged in 1 analysis (9.9 or 9.5 vs 11.3 days). Pharmacoeconomic data therefore support the use of enoxaparin as an effective thromboprophylactic treatment with potential cost advantages over warfarin and UFH. Cost-effecti

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