Objectives: To systematically review the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of palivizumab for the prevention of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) in children and examine prognostic factors to determine whether subgroups can be identified with important differences in cost-effectiveness.
Data sources: Bibliographic databases were searched from inception to March 2007 for literature on the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of prophylaxis with palivizumab.
Review methods: The literature was systematically reviewed and current economic evaluations were analysed to identify which parameters were driving the different cost-effectiveness estimates. A probabilistic decision-analytical model was built to assess the cost-effectiveness of prophylaxis with palivizumab for children at risk of RSV infection and the parameters populated with the best estimates thought most applicable to the UK. We also constructed a new model, the Birmingham Economic Evaluation (BrumEE). Cost-effectiveness analyses were undertaken from both NHS and societal perspectives.
Results: Two randomised controlled trials (RCTs) were identified. Prophylaxis with palivizumab for preterm infants without chronic lung disease (CLD) or children with CLD resulted in a 55% reduction in RSV hospital admission: 4.8% (48/1002) in the palivizumab group and 10.6% (53/500) in the no prophylaxis group (p = 0.0004). Prophylaxis with palivizumab was associated with a 45% reduction in hospitalisation rate RSV among children with coronary heart disease (CHD). Hospitalisation rates for RSV were 5.3% (34/639) in the palivizumab group and 9.7% (63/648) in the no prophylaxis group (p = 0.003). Of existing economic evaluations, 3 systematic reviews and 18 primary studies were identified. All the systematic reviews concluded that the potential costs of palivizumab were far in excess of any potential savings achieved by decreasing hospital admission rates, and that the use of palivizumab was unlikely to be cost-effective in all children for whom it is recommended, but that its continued use for particularly high-risk children may be justified. The incremental cost-effectiveness ratios (ICERs) of the primary studies varied 17-fold for life-years gained (LYG), from 25,800 pounds/LYG to 404,900 pounds/LYG, and several hundred-fold for quality-adjusted life-years (QALYs), from 3200 pounds/QALY to 1,489,700 pounds/QALY for preterm infants without CLD or children with CLD. For children with CHD, the ICER varied from 5300 pounds/LYG to 7900 pounds/LYG and from 7500 pounds/QALY to 68,700 pounds/QALY. An analysis of what led to the discrepant ICERs showed that the assumed mortality rate for RSV infection was the most important driver. The results of the BrumEE confirm that palivizumab does not reach conventional levels of cost-effectiveness in any of the licensed indications if used for all eligible children.
Conclusions: Prophylaxis with palivizumab is clinically effective for the reducing the risk of serious lower respiratory tract infection caused by RSV infection and requiring hospitalisation in high-risk children, but if used unselectively in the licensed population, the ICER is double that considered to represent good value for money in the UK. The BrumEE shows that prophylaxis with palivizumab may be cost-effective (based on a threshold of 30,000 pounds/QALY) for children with CLD when the children have two or more additional risk factors. Future research should initially focus on reviewing systematically the major uncertainties for patient subgroups with CLD and CHD and then on primary research to address the important uncertainties that remain.