Background: Atrial fibrillation is the most common type of sustained cardiac arrhythmia, but recent trials have identified no clear advantage of rhythm control over rate control. Consequently, economic factors often play a role in guiding treatment selection.
Objective: To estimate the cost-effectiveness of rhythm-control versus rate-control strategies for atrial fibrillation in the Atrial Fibrillation Follow-up Investigation of Rhythm Management (AFFIRM).
Design: Retrospective economic evaluation. Nonparametric bootstrapping was used to estimate the distribution of incremental costs and effects on the cost-effectiveness plane.
Data sources: Data on survival and use of health care resources were obtained for all 4060 AFFIRM participants. Unit costs were estimated from various U.S. databases.
Target population: Patients with atrial fibrillation who were 65 years of age or who had other risk factors for stroke or death, similar to those enrolled in AFFIRM.
Time horizon: Mean follow-up of 3.5 years.
Perspective: Third-party payer.
Interventions: Management of patients with atrial fibrillation with antiarrhythmic drugs (rhythm control) compared with drugs that control heart rate (rate control).
Outcome measures: Mean survival, resource use, costs, and cost-effectiveness.
Results of base-case analysis: A mean survival gain of 0.08 year (P = 0.10) was observed for rate control. Patients in the rate-control group used fewer resources (hospital days, pacemaker procedures, cardioversions, and short-stay and emergency department visits). Rate control costs 5077 dollars less per person than rhythm control.
Results of sensitivity analysis: Cost savings ranged from 2189 dollars o 5481 dollars per person. Rhythm control was more costly and less effective than rate control in 95% of the bootstrap replicates over a wide range of cost assumptions.
Limitations: Resource use was limited to key items collected in AFFIRM, and the results are generalizable only to similar patient populations with atrial fibrillation.
Conclusion: Rate control is a cost-effective approach to the management of atrial fibrillation compared with maintenance of sinus rhythm in patients with atrial fibrillation similar to those enrolled in AFFIRM.