Cost-effectiveness of low-molecular-weight heparin for treatment of pulmonary embolism.


We built a Markov state-transition model to evaluate the medical and economic outcomes of a 6-day course with fixed-dose LMWH or adjusted-dose unfractionated heparin (UFH) in a hypothetical cohort of 60-year-old patients with acute submassive PE. Probabilities for clinical outcomes were obtained from a meta-analysis of clinical trials. Cost estimates were derived from Medicare reimbursement data and other sources. The base-case analysis used an inpatient setting, whereas secondary analyses examined early discharge and outpatient treatment with LMWH. Using a societal perspective, strategies were compared based on lifetime costs, quality-adjusted life-years (QALYs), and the incremental cost-effectiveness ratio.

Inpatient treatment costs were higher for LMWH treatment than for UFH (dollar 13,001 vs dollar 12,780), but LMWH yielded a greater number of QALYs than did UFH (7.677 QALYs vs 7.493 QALYs). The incremental costs of dollar 221 and the corresponding incremental effectiveness of 0.184 QALYs resulted in an incremental cost-effectiveness ratio of dollar 1,209/QALY. Our results were highly robust in sensitivity analyses. LMWH became cost-saving if the daily pharmacy costs for LMWH were or = 8% of patients were eligible for early discharge, or if > or = 5% of patients could be treated entirely as outpatients.

For inpatient treatment of PE, the use of LMWH is cost-effective compared to UFH. Early discharge or outpatient treatment in suitable patients with PE would lead to substantial cost savings.

Low-molecular-weight heparin (LMWH) appears to be safe and effective for treating pulmonary embolism (PE), but its cost-effectiveness has not been assessed.

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