Objective: To estimate the incremental effects on cost and quality of life of cardiac rehabilitation after an acute coronary syndrome.
Design: Open randomised controlled trial with 1 year's follow-up. Analysis was on an intention-to-treat basis.
Setting: Two tertiary hospitals in Sydney.
Intervention: 18 sessions of comprehensive exercise-based outpatient cardiac rehabilitation or conventional care as provided by the treating doctor.
Participants: 113 patients aged 41-75 years who were self-caring and literate in English. Patients with uncompensated heart failure, uncontrolled arrhythmias, severe and symptomatic aortic stenosis or physical impairment were excluded.
Main outcome measures: Costs (hospitalisations, medication use, outpatient visits, investigations, and personal expenses); and measures of quality of life. Incremental cost per quality-adjusted life year (QALY) saved at 1 year (this estimate combines within-study utility effects with reported 1-year risk of survival and treatment effects of rehabilitation on mortality). Sensitivity analyses around a base case estimate included alternative assumptions of no treatment effect on survival, 3 years of treatment effect on survival and variations in utility.
Results: The estimated incremental cost per QALY saved for rehabilitation relative to standard care was 42,535 US dollars when modelling included the reported treatment effect on survival. This increased to 70,580 US dollars per QALY saved if treatment effect on survival was not included. The results were sensitive to variations in utility and ranged from 19,685 US dollars per QALY saved to rehabilitation not being cost-effective.
Conclusions: The effects on quality of life tend to reinforce treatment advantages on survival for patients having postdischarge rehabilitation after an acute coronary syndrome. The estimated base case incremental cost per QALY saved is consistent with those historically accepted by decision making authorities such as the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee.