Trastuzumab for the treatment of primary breast cancer in HER2-positive women: a single technology appraisal

S Ward, H Pilgrim, D Hind
Health Technology Assessment: HTA 2009, 13 Suppl 1: 1-6
This paper presents a summary of the evidence review group (ERG) report into the the clinical and cost-effectiveness of trastuzumab for the treatment of primary breast cancer in human epidermal growth factor 2 (HER2)-positive women based upon a review of the manufacturer's submission to the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) as part of the single technology appraisal (STA) process. The manufacturer's scope restricts the intervention to intravenous trastuzumab given for 1 year after surgery and after the completion of standard adjuvant chemotherapy, and the comparator to standard therapy without trastuzumab. The clinical rationale for the duration of treatment in the scope is open to question and leads to the exclsuion of one potentially relevant trial. The submitted evidence reports that the 3-weekly regimen of trastuzumab produced a relative reduction in all-cause mortality of 24-33%. Meta-analysis of all available studies based on 12 months of trastuzumab showed that there was a statistically significant 30% relative improvement in overall survival using the 3-weekly regimen. A study looking at weekly cycles of trastuzumab, excluded in the manufacturer's submission, produced a relative reduction in all-cause mortality of 59%, which was not statistically significant. All included studies showed a statistically significant difference in the risk of recurrence or death from any cause (disease-free survival), favouring trastuzumab. There was a statistically significant increase in the relative risk of a serious adverse event in women treated with 3-weekly cycles of trastuzumab, with no excess toxicity in the study evaluating weekly cycles. Estimates of cost-effectiveness provided by the manufacturer were based on data from the HERA trial using the 3-weekly regimen of trastuzumab. The economic model was a state-transition model that compared the lifetime impact of adding 1 year of trastuzumab therapy to standard care with standard care alone. The initial cost-effectiveness estimate was 5687 pounds per additional quality-adjusted life-year (QALY) gained, rising to a maximum of 8689 pounds upon one-way sensitivity analysis. The base-case estimate of cost-effectiveness was subsequently revised by the manufacturer, resulting in an estimated incremental cost per additional QALY gained of 2387 pounds. A number of assumptions behind the manufacturer's model may be optimistic and could mean that the incremental costs per QALY gained were underestimated. Additional analysis carried out by the evidence review group concluded that the incremental cost-effectiveness ratio (ICER) is expected to be around 20,000 pounds to 30,000 pounds. The addition of potential long-term cardiac events could push the ICER above 30,000 pounds, although there is no long-term evidence to date surrounding this issue. In addition, the small study excluded from the manufacturer's submission raises the possibility of an equally effective but shorter regimen, incurring lower cost and toxicity and with greater patient convenience. The guidance issued by NICE in June 2006 as a result of the STA states that trastuzumab, given at 3-week intervals for 1 year or until disease recurrence, is recommended as a treatment option for women with early-stage HER2-positive breast cancer following surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

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