Background: Rofecoxib and celecoxib (coxibs) effectively treat chronic arthritis pain and reduce ulcer complications by 50% compared with nonselective nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). However, their absolute risk reduction is small and the cost-effectiveness of treatment is uncertain.
Objective: To determine whether the degree of risk reduction in gastrointestinal complications by coxibs offsets their increased cost compared with a generic nonselective NSAID.
Design: Cost-utility analysis.
Data sources: Systematic review of MEDLINE and published abstracts.
Target population: Patients with osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis who are not taking aspirin and who require long-term NSAID therapy for moderate to severe arthritis pain.
Perspective: Third-party payer.
Interventions: Naproxen, 500 mg twice daily, and coxib, once daily. Patients intolerant of naproxen were switched to a coxib.
Time horizon: Lifetime.
Outcome measures: Incremental cost per quality-adjusted life-year (QALY) gained.
Results of base-case analysis: Using a coxib instead of a nonselective NSAID in average-risk patients cost an incremental 275 809 dollars per year to gain 1 additional QALY.
Results of sensitivity analysis: The incremental cost per QALY gained decreased to 55 803 dollars when the analysis was limited to the subset of patients with a history of bleeding ulcers. The coxib strategy became dominant when the cost of coxibs was reduced by 90% of the current average wholesale price. In probabilistic sensitivity analysis, if a third-party payer was willing to pay 150 000 dollars per QALY gained, then 4.3% of average-risk patients would fall within the budget.
Conclusions: The risk reduction seen with coxibs does not offset their increased costs compared with nonselective NSAIDs in the management of average-risk patients with chronic arthritis. However, coxibs may provide an acceptable incremental cost-effectiveness ratio in the subgroup of patients with a history of bleeding ulcers.