Objectives: The object of this study was to determine, taking into account uncertainty on cost and outcome parameters, the cost-effectiveness of high-dose chemotherapy (HDC) compared with conventional chemotherapy for advanced breast cancer patients.
Methods: An analysis was conducted for 300 patients included in a randomized clinical trial designed to evaluate the benefits, in terms of disease-free survival and overall survival, of adding a single course of HDC to a four-cycle conventional-dose chemotherapy for breast cancer patients with axillary lymph node invasion. Costs were estimated from a detailed observation of physical quantities consumed, and the Kaplan–Meier method was used to evaluate mean survival times. Incremental cost-effectiveness ratios were evaluated successively considering disease-free survival and overall survival outcomes. Handling of uncertainty consisted in construction of confidence intervals for these ratios, using the truncated Fieller method.
Results: The cost per disease-free life year gained was evaluated at 13,074€, a value that seems to be acceptable to society. However, handling uncertainty shows that the upper bound of the confidence interval is around 38,000€, which is nearly three times higher. Moreover, as no difference was demonstrated in overall survival between treatments, cost-effectiveness analysis, that is a cost minimization, indicated that the intensive treatment is a dominated strategy involving an extra cost of 7,400€, for no added benefit.
Conclusions: Adding a single course of HDC led to a clinical benefit in terms of disease-free survival for an additional cost that seems to be acceptable, considering the point estimate of the ratio. However, handling uncertainty indicates a maximum ratio for which conclusions have to be discussed.