Objectives: In April 1998, the Medical Services Advisory Committee (MSAC) was established by the Australian federal government. Since that time, all new medical procedures must be evaluated for safety, effectiveness, and cost-effectiveness as a condition of the surgeon receiving public funding by means of the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS). Over these first 8 years, a significant number of applications for the public funding of new procedures have been given negative recommendations by the MSAC based on insufficient clinical evidence or lack of cost-effectiveness. In August 2006, after almost 2 years of processing, the MSAC made the decision to fund the new procedure, laparoscopic remotely assisted radical prostatectomy (LRARP). However, they stated that there was still uncertainty about the comparative cost-effectiveness.
Methods: An observational study using provisional cost-utility data for LRARP based on a combination of costs taken from consecutive patients at the Epworth Hospital, Melbourne, Australia, and utilities from the prospectively collected data on all patients undergoing surgery for prostate cancer over a 4-year period at the Vattikuti Urology Institute, Michigan, United States.
Results: The incremental cost for LRARP compared with the open surgery alternative is A$2,264 or A$24,457 per quality-adjusted life-year, well below the range accepted by the Australian pharmaceutical equivalent of the MSAC (the PBAC) of A$42,000 and A$76,000. This figure does not take into account additional benefits such as reduced time away from employment, reduced blood loss, reduced possibility of infection, and reduced scarring.
Conclusions: This case study of LRARP demonstrates that there is sufficient crude evidence to show that this new procedure is likely to be superior to the existing procedure in terms of safety, effectiveness, and cost-effectiveness. The decision to allow MBS funding was correct and will allow for the collection of additional evidence, on both economic and clinical outcomes.