Cost utility and budget impact of third-generation aromatase inhibitors for advanced breast cancer: a literature-based model analysis of costs in the Italian National Health Service

Monia Marchetti, Mauro Caruggi, Giorgio Colombo
Clinical Therapeutics 2004, 26 (9): 1546-61

BACKGROUND: Third-generation aromatase inhibitors are effective alternatives to tamoxifen in patients with advanced breast cancer. However, their acquisition costs might burden fixed-budget health care systems.

OBJECTIVE: This study is a decision analysis of the clinical and economic consequences of alternative first-line hormone therapies for postmenopausal women with estrogen receptor-positive metastatic breast cancer in a real-life Italian health care setting.

METHODS: A Markov model was developed to describe disease evolution according to data from previously published, randomized clinical trials. The costs incurred by a local community hospital in the Italian National Health Service were considered (year-2003 values). Clinical data were taken from previously published trials. A 3% discount rate was applied to both resources and life-years gained.

RESULTS: Based on model estimates, mean survival times with the third-generation aromatase inhibitors anastrozole and letrozole were 30.72 and 30.64 months, respectively, as opposed to 27.28 months with tamoxifen. Mean survival times after adjustment for quality of life were 18.84 and 18.78 months with anastrozole and letrozole, respectively, and 16.14 months with tamoxifen. Baseline analysis produced incremental cost-effectiveness ratios per quality-adjusted life-year gained of 10,795 Euro (95% CI, 7737 Euro-12,899 Euro) and 16,886 Euro (95% CI, 9117 Euro-15,465 Euro) for anastrozole and letrozole, respectively, compared with tamoxifen. The observed difference between the 2 cost-utility ratios may have been mainly due to the higher acquisition costs of letrozole compared with anastrozole. Despite similar incremental cost-effectiveness ratios, anastrozole and letrozole might increase the budget for advanced breast cancer care by 12% and 18%, respectively, based on the year-2003 Italian market prices of the 2 drugs.

CONCLUSIONS: In this cost-effectiveness analysis using previously published clinical data and year-2003 cost data from a community hospital in the Italian National Health Service, anastrozole and letrozole were both cost-effective alternatives to tamoxifen for first-line therapy of postmenopausal women with advanced estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer.

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