Background: Nephropathy is an indicator of end-organ damage and is a strong predictor of an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and death in patients with diabetes. Screening can lead to early identification and treatment, both of which incur costs. However, identification and treatment may slow or prevent progression to a more expensive stage of the disease and thus may save money. We assessed the health economic impact of screening for nephropathy (microalbuminuria and overt nephropathy) followed by optimal renoprotective-based antihypertensive therapy in a US setting.
Methods: A Markov model simulated the lifetime impact of screening with semi-quantitative urine dipsticks in a primary care setting of hypertensive patients with type 2 diabetes and subsequent treatment with irbesartan 300 mg in patients identified as having nephropathy. Progression from no nephropathy to end-stage renal disease (ESRD) was simulated. Probabilities, utilities, medication and ESRD treatment costs came from published sources. Clinical outcomes and direct medical costs were projected. Second order Monte Carlo simulation was used to account for uncertainty in multiple parameters. Annual discount rates of 3% were used where appropriate.
Results: Screening, followed by optimized treatment, led to a 44% reduction in the cumulative incidence of ESRD and improvements in non-discounted life expectancy of 0.25 +/- 0.22 years/patient (mean +/- SD). Quality-adjusted life expectancy was improved by 0.18 +/- 0.15 quality-adjusted life years (QALYs)/patient and direct costs increased by $244 +/- 3499/patient. The incremental cost-effectiveness ratio was $20 011 per QALY gained for screening and optimized treatment versus no screening. There was a 77% probability that screening and optimized therapy would be considered cost effective with a willingness to pay a threshold of $50 000.
Conclusion: In patients with type 2 diabetes and hypertension, screening for nephropathy and treatment with a renoprotective-based antihypertensive agent was projected to improve patient outcomes and represent excellent value in a US setting.