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Cost-effectiveness of etanercept treatment in early active rheumatoid arthritis followed by dose adjustment

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 July 2011

Gisela Kobelt
Lund University and European Health Economics
Ingrid Lekander
Karolinska Institute and i3 innovus
Andrea Lang
i3 innovus
Bernd Raffeiner
University of Padova
Costantino Botsios
University of Padova
Pierre Geborek
Lund University and Skåne University Hospital Malmö (SUS)


Objectives: To explore the cost-effectiveness of early biologic treatment, followed by dose-reduction in the case of remission, of active rheumatoid arthritis (RA), compared with standard treatment with methotrexate (MTX) in Sweden.

Methods: Effectiveness (function, disease activity, erosions) in early RA for both alternatives was taken from a clinical trial comparing etanercept (ETA) combined with MTX to MTX alone. Patients discontinuing treatment can switch to another or their first biologic treatment. For patients in remission (Disease Activity Score [DAS28] < 2.6), ETA is reduced to half the dose. Return to full dose occurs when DAS28 reaches ≥ 3.2 again. Costs and utilities by level of functional capacity from an observational study are used. The model is analyzed as a micro-simulation and results are presented from the societal perspective for Sweden, for 10 years; costs (€2008) and effects are discounted at 3 percent. Sensitivity analysis was performed for the perspective, the time horizon, switching, and dose-reduction.

Results: The main analysis conservatively assumes 50 percent switching at discontinuation. The cost per quality-adjusted life-year (QALY) gained with early ETA/MTX treatment is €13,500 (societal perspective, incremental cost of €15,500 and incremental QALYs of 1.15). With 75 percent switching, the cost per QALY gained was €10,400. Over 20 years, the cost per QALY gained was €8,200. Results were further sensitive to the time patients remained on half dose and the perspective.

Conclusions and Policy Implications: This study combines clinical trial and clinical practice data to explore cost-effective treatment scenarios in early RA, including the use of biologics. Our results indicate that a situation where a considerable proportion of patients achieve remission, dose-adjustments will increase the cost-effectiveness of treatment.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2011

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