Cost effectiveness of letrozole in the treatment of advanced breast cancer in postmenopausal women in the UK

M Nuijten, L Meester, F Waibel, S Wait
PharmacoEconomics 1999, 16 (4): 379-97

OBJECTIVE: To simulate the treatment of postmenopausal women with advanced breast cancer from second-line hormone therapy to death, and to generate estimates of the cost and effectiveness of letrozole and megestrol in order to determine the incremental cost effectiveness of letrozole, expressed as cost per life-years gained.

DESIGN: A decision-analytic model, using Markov process techniques, was designed to evaluate the lifetime clinical and economic consequences of treatment with letrozole compared with standard care with megestrol. The model was based on clinical trial results showing a clear advantage of letrozole in terms of time to progression and duration of response.

SETTING: The setting of the study was that of the UK healthcare system in 1996.

PATIENTS AND PARTICIPANTS: A hypothetical cohort of patients, identical to the patients recruited for the AR/BC2 clinical trial, who were postmenopausal women with advanced breast cancer who had previously failed to respond to first-line or adjuvant anti-estrogen therapy.

INTERVENTIONS: The dosages of medications were 2.5 and 160 mg/day for letrozole and megestrol, respectively. The analysis covered the period from treatment initiation until death (lifetime model). Effectiveness was expressed as survival and time without progression, and the model also included all relevant economic measures.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES AND RESULTS: Based on the model, the average survival time of the letrozole group was 2.1 years (25.3 months) versus 1.9 years (21.5 months) for the megestrol group, a gain in survival of 2.4 months (10.5%). The average time without progression, cumulatively calculated over the different treatment options, amounted to 20.2 months for letrozole and 17.8 months for megestrol, an increase of 13.7% for the former patients. The total average cost per patient for the treatment of advanced breast cancer starting from second-line hormone therapy until death was higher in the letrozole group at 7547 Pounds versus 6820 Pounds for the megestrol group (discounted at an annual rate of 5%), leading to an incremental cost-effectiveness ratio of 3588 Pounds per life-year gained (1996 values).

CONCLUSIONS: Based on the assumptions used in this model, letrozole offers a suitable alternative to megestrol in the treatment of second-line hormone therapy.

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