COMPARATIVE STUDY
JOURNAL ARTICLE
REVIEW

Clopidogrel used in combination with aspirin compared with aspirin alone in the treatment of non-ST-segment-elevation acute coronary syndromes: a systematic review and economic evaluation

C Main, S Palmer, S Griffin, L Jones, V Orton, M Sculpher, R Henderson, C Sudlow, N Hawkins, R Riemsma
Health Technology Assessment: HTA 2004, 8 (40): iii-iv, xv-xvi, 1-141
15461878

OBJECTIVES: To review systematically the clinical effectiveness and the cost-effectiveness of clopidogrel used in combination with standard therapy including aspirin, compared with standard therapy alone for the treatment of non-ST-segment elevation acute coronary syndromes (ACS).

DATA SOURCES: Electronic databases. Manufacturers' submissions.

REVIEW METHODS: Studies were selected using rigorous criteria. The quality of randomised controlled trials (RCTs) was assessed according to criteria based on NHS CRD Report No. 4, and the quality of systematic reviews was assessed according to the guidelines for the Database of Reviews of Effect (DARE) criteria. The quality of economic evaluations was assessed according to a specifically tailored checklist. The clinical effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of clopidogrel in combination with standard therapy compared with standard therapy alone were synthesised through a narrative review with full tabulation of the results of the included studies. In the economic evaluations, a cost-effectiveness model was constructed using the best available evidence to determine cost-effectiveness in a UK setting.

RESULTS: One RCT (the CURE trial) was a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of high quality and showed that clopidogrel in addition to aspirin was significantly more effective than placebo plus aspirin in patients with non-ST-segment elevation ACS for the composite outcome of death from cardiovascular causes, non-fatal myocardial infarction or stroke over the 9-month treatment period. However, clopidogrel was associated with a significantly higher number of episodes of both major and minor bleeding. The results from the five systematic reviews that assessed the adverse events associated with long-term aspirin use showed that aspirin was associated with a significantly higher incidence of haemorrhagic stroke, extracranial haemorrhage and gastrointestinal haemorrhage compared with placebo. Of the cost-effectiveness evidence reviewed, only the manufacturer's submission was considered relevant from the perspective of the NHS. The review of this evidence highlighted potential limitations within the submission in its use of data and in the model structure used. These limitations led to the development of a new model with the aim of providing a more reliable estimate of the cost-effectiveness from the perspective of the UK NHS. This model indicated that clopidogrel appears cost-effective compared with standard care alone in patients with non-ST-elevation ACS as long as the NHS is willing to pay GBP6078 per quality of life year (QALY). The results were most sensitive to the inclusion of additional strategies that assessed alternative treatment durations with clopidogrel. Although treatment with clopidogrel for 12 months remained cost-effective for the overall cohort, provisional findings indicate that the shorter treatment durations may be more cost-effective in patients at low risk.

CONCLUSIONS: The results of the CURE trial indicate that clopidogrel in combination with aspirin was significantly more effective than placebo combined with aspirin in a wide range of patients with ACS. This benefit was largely related to a reduction in Q-wave myocardial infarction. There was no statistically significant benefit in relation to mortality. The trial data suggested that a substantial part of the benefit derived from clopidogrel is achieved by 3 months, with a further small benefit over the remaining 9 months of chronic treatment. The results from the base-case model suggest that treatment with clopidogrel as an adjunct to standard therapy (including aspirin) for 12 months, compared with standard therapy alone, is cost-effective in non-ST elevation ACS patients as long as the health service is willing to pay GBP6078 per additional QALY. However, although treatment with clopidogrel for 12 months remained cost-effective for the overall cohort, provisional findings indicate that the shorter treatment durations may be more cost-effective in patients at low risk. To estimate the exact length of time that clopidogrel in addition to standard therapy should be prescribed for patients with non-ST-segment ACS would require a prospective trial that randomised patients to various durations of therapy. This would accurately assess whether a 'rebound' phenomenon occurs in patients if clopidogrel were stopped after 3 months of treatment.

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