Cost effectiveness of leukotriene receptor antagonists versus inhaled corticosteroids for initial asthma controller therapy: a pragmatic trial

Pharmacoeconomics. 2010;28(7):585-95. doi: 10.2165/11537550-000000000-00000.


Background: Information is lacking on the relative effectiveness and cost effectiveness--in a primary-care setting--of leukotriene receptor antagonists (LTRAs) as an alternative to inhaled corticosteroids (ICS) for initial asthma controller therapy.

Objective: To compare the cost effectiveness of LTRAs versus ICS for patients initiating asthma controller therapy.

Methods: An economic evaluation was conducted alongside a 2-year, pragmatic, randomized controlled trial set in 53 primary-care practices in the UK. Patients aged 12-80 years with asthma and symptoms requiring regular anti-inflammatory therapy (n = 326) were randomly assigned to LTRAs (n = 162) or ICS (n = 164). The main outcome measures were the incremental costs per point improvement in the Mini Asthma Quality of Life Questionnaire, per point improvement in the Asthma Control Questionnaire and per QALY gained from the UK NHS and societal perspectives.

Results: Over 2 years, resource use was similar between the two treatment groups, but the cost to society per patient was significantly higher for the LTRA group, at pounds sterling 711 versus pounds sterling 433 for the ICS group (adjusted difference pounds sterling 204; 95% CI 74, 308) [year 2005 values]. Cost differences were driven primarily by differences in prescription drug costs, particularly study drug costs. There was a nonsignificant (imputed, adjusted) difference between treatment groups, favouring ICS, in QALYs gained at 2 years of -0.073 (95% CI -0.143, 0.010). Therapy with LTRAs was, on average, a dominated strategy, and, at a threshold for willingness to pay of pounds sterling 30,000 per QALY gained, the probability of LTRAs being cost effective compared with ICS was approximately 3% from both societal and NHS perspectives.

Conclusions: There is a very low probability of LTRAs being cost effective in the UK, at 2005 values, compared with ICS for initial asthma controller therapy.

Trial registration: UK National Research Register N0547145240; Controlled Clinical Trials ISRCTN99132811.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Inhalation
  • Adolescent
  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / administration & dosage
  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / economics*
  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / therapeutic use*
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Asthma / drug therapy*
  • Asthma / economics
  • Child
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Humans
  • Leukotriene Antagonists / administration & dosage
  • Leukotriene Antagonists / economics*
  • Leukotriene Antagonists / therapeutic use*
  • Middle Aged
  • Quality-Adjusted Life Years
  • Treatment Outcome
  • United Kingdom
  • Young Adult


  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones
  • Leukotriene Antagonists

Associated data

  • ISRCTN/ISRCTN99132811