Cost effectiveness of budesonide/formoterol for maintenance and reliever therapy versus salmeterol/fluticasone plus salbutamol in the treatment of asthma

Gunnar Johansson, Emma B Andreasson, Per E Larsson, Claus F Vogelmeier
PharmacoEconomics 2006, 24 (7): 695-708

INTRODUCTION: Budesonide/formoterol (Symbicort) Maintenance And Reliever Therapy (SMART) is an effective and well tolerated treatment option for patients with asthma. We compared the cost effectiveness from a societal perspective of this one-inhaler regimen with that of maintenance salmeterol/fluticasone propionate (Seretide) plus salbutamol (albuterol) as needed (Seretide) Fixed Combination [SFC]).

STUDY DESIGN: A cost-effectiveness analysis was performed based on effectiveness and resource-utilisation data collected prospectively in a randomised, 12-month study performed in 2143 patients in 16 countries. Resource utilisation data were pooled and unit costs (euro, year 2003 values) from Italy, France, the UK and Germany were used to generate estimates of direct and total costs per patient per year and cost per severe exacerbation avoided.

METHODS: Adolescents and adults with asthma (n = 2143; mean forced expiratory volume in 1 second [FEV(1)] 73% predicted; mean inhaled corticosteroid [ICS] dose 884 microg/day) were randomised to SMART or SFC. The effectiveness measure used was the number of severe exacerbations per patient per year. Direct costs included medication use (budesonide/formoterol 160microg/4.5microg or salmeterol/fluticasone 50microg/100microg, 50microg/250microg or 50microg/500microg plus salbutamol) and nonmedication-related resource use, including days in hospital, emergency room visits, specialist or primary care physician visits and other healthcare provider contacts. Indirect costs, including the number of days when the patient or their carer was unable to attend to their normal daily activities, were also assessed. The study assumed a European societal perspective (i.e. including direct and indirect costs).

RESULTS: Treatment with SMART resulted in significantly fewer severe exacerbations per patient per year compared with SFC (0.24 vs 0.31 events per patient per year; p = 0.0025). Resource use was low in both groups. Medication costs accounted for the majority of the total costs. The increased effectiveness of SMART was achieved at a reduced or similar cost compared with SFC. SMART dominated when German unit costs were applied (i.e. there was a statistically significant reduction in both costs and number of exacerbations). In all other countries, the incremental cost-effectiveness ratios showed that there was a reduction in mean total cost per exacerbation avoided; however, this difference was not statistically significant.

CONCLUSION: This analysis demonstrates that, compared with SFC, SMART may be cost effective from a societal perspective for the treatment of patients with asthma in Italy, Germany, France and the UK. SMART provided a reduction in the number of severe exacerbations per patient per year, at no statistically significant increase in cost - or even at a lower cost - compared with SFC plus as-needed reliever salbutamol.

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