[Current aspects of cost effectiveness of TNF-alpha blocking agents in patients with rheumatoid arthritis]

Sonja Merkesdal, J Ruof
Zeitschrift Für Rheumatologie 2002, 61: II/29-32
Facing increasing health-related costs and limited health care resources, the assessment of cost effectiveness (CE) of medical procedures is also gaining considerable importance in the field of rheumatology. Since high annual therapy costs of 17,000-21,000 Euro are related to the employment of TNF-alpha blocking agents such as etanercept and infliximab (compared to annual costs of 350-5000 Euro of other disease modifying drugs (DMARDs) in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis (RA)), their CE has become an important issue. The present investigation summarizes economic evaluations of cost and effectiveness of TNF-alpha blocking agents and compares the results to those of traditional DMARD therapies in patients with RA. The implications of these economic results on the further use of TNF-alpha blocking drugs and methodological improvements of their economic evaluation are discussed. The current literature provides evidence for the CE of the combination therapy with methotrexate (MTX), hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), and sulfasalazine (SASP). In comparison to this finding, the use of etanercept and MTX yields much higher costs, although the highest rate of ACR20 responses is achieved by this combination (additional costs of $42,000 per ACR20 response compared to combination of MTX, HCQ, and SASP). Two recent studies show more promising results of about $12,000/QUALY and even cost savings per QUALY administering etanercept and infliximab, respectively. The wide range of the CE ratios is mainly explained by different methodological approaches. Whether the wider employment of TNF-alpha blocking drugs (comprising not only selected patients) proves to be economically effective, remains to be investigated by further economic analyses. In contrast to the initial disappointing results of the comparison of established DMARD therapies and TNF-alpha blocking drugs in terms of CE, recently published data renders evidence that the CE of the TNF-alpha blocking drugs is comparable to other accepted therapies in internal medicine.

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