Cost-effectiveness of TNF-alpha-blocking agents in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis

Sonja Merkesdal, Jörg Ruof, Thomas Mittendorf, Henning Zeidler
Expert Opinion on Pharmacotherapy 2004, 5 (9): 1881-6
The current literature covering cost-effectiveness and cost-utility analyses of biological treatments in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) are reviewed in order to discuss options and limitations for future application of these highly priced drugs in routine clinical practice. The cost-effectiveness and cost-utility ratios of the studies analysed are converted into the corresponding Euros of the publication year. Etanercept treatment achieved a cost-effectiveness ratio of 44,300 Euros (2002)/ACR 20 (20% response according to American College of Rheumatology criteria) and 43,100 Euros (2002)/ACR 70WR (ACR 70 weighted response) compared with sulfasalazine and methotrexate, respectively, in methotrexate-naive RA. In methotrexate-resistant RA, the combination of etanercept and methotrexate is compared to a combination therapy of methotrexate, sulfasalazine and hydroxychloroquine revealing costs of 46,100 Euros (2000)/ACR 20, and 37,700 Euros/ACR 70WR. The cost-utility ratios for infliximab treatment range from 16,000 Euros to almost 166,000/QALY (quality adjusted life-year) gained, the studies investigating etanercept treatment show a ratio of approximately 25,000 Euros and 120,000/QALY gained. No substantial differences of cost-utilities of infliximab and etanercept were found. The administration of these drugs as third-line therapy is regarded cost-effective compared to other well-accepted therapies with comparable cost-utility ratios of < 50,000 Euros/QALY gained. Still, data on economic outcomes of RA trials are sparse and further cost-effectiveness and cost-utility evaluations are needed.

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