University of Pittsburgh
Although extended secondary prophylaxis with low-molecular-weight heparin was recently shown to be more effective than warfarin for cancer-related venous thromboembolism, its cost-effectiveness compared to traditional prophylaxis with warfarin is uncertain. We built a decision analytic model to evaluate the clinical and economic outcomes of a 6-month course of low-molecular-weight heparin or warfarin therapy in 65-year-old patients with cancer-related venous thromboembolism. We used probability estimates and utilities reported in the literature and published cost data. Using a US societal perspective, we compared strategies based on quality-adjusted life-years (QALYs) and lifetime costs. The incremental cost-effectiveness ratio of low-molecular-weight heparin compared with warfarin was 149,865 dollars/QALY. Low-molecular-weight heparin yielded a quality-adjusted life expectancy of 1.097 QALYs at the cost of 15,329 dollars. Overall, 46% (7108 dollars) of the total costs associated with low-molecular-weight heparin were attributable to pharmacy costs. Although the low-molecular-weigh heparin strategy achieved a higher incremental quality-adjusted life expectancy than the warfarin strategy (difference of 0.051 QALYs), this clinical benefit was offset by a substantial cost increment of 7,609 dollars. Cost-effectiveness results were sensitive to variation of the early mortality risks associated with low-molecular-weight heparin and warfarin and the pharmacy costs for low-molecular-weight heparin. Based on the best available evidence, secondary prophylaxis with low-molecular-weight heparin is more effective than warfarin for cancer-related venous thromboembolism. However, because of the substantial pharmacy costs of extended low-molecular-weight heparin prophylaxis in the US, this treatment is relatively expensive compared with warfarin.