Background & aims: Treatment-induced anemia undermines the efficacy of antiviral therapy in hepatitis C by mandating ribavirin dose reduction and diminishing adherence to therapy. Erythropoietic growth factors (EGFs) may correct treatment-induced anemia, facilitate maintenance of full-dose therapy, and improve rates of sustained virologic response (SVR). We sought to determine the cost effectiveness of adjunctive treatment with an EGF vs standard care in the treatment of hepatitis C.
Methods: We used a decision analysis to calculate the cost effectiveness of 2 treatment strategies for a patient cohort with chronic hepatitis C, increased transaminase levels, and no cirrhosis who were receiving pegylated-interferon and ribavirin (RBV): (1) RBV dose-reduction for anemia, followed by discontinuation of therapy if anemia persisted (standard care strategy), (2) adjunctive treatment with EGF therapy for anemia, with RBV dose reduction reserved for persistent anemia despite EGF therapy (EGF strategy). We conducted cost-effectiveness and cost-utility analyses to compare short- and long-term outcomes between the strategies.
Results: The percentage achieving SVR was 52.3% in the standard care strategy and 59.5% in the EGF strategy. Compared with standard care, the EGF strategy cost an incremental $36,568 per unadjusted life-year gained and $16,443 per quality-adjusted life-year gained. In a sensitivity analysis, if a third-party payer was willing to pay $50,000 per quality-adjusted life-year gained for the use of an EGF, then 86.1% of patients would be within the budget.
Conclusions: Compared with standard care, adjunctive therapy with an EGF for the management of treatment-induced anemia may increase the probability of achieving SVR, increase unadjusted lifespan, and increase quality-adjusted lifespan at an acceptable cost.