Pharmacoeconomics of volatile inhalational anaesthetic agents: an 11-year retrospective analysis

Anaesth Intensive Care. 2010 Sep;38(5):849-54. doi: 10.1177/0310057X1003800507.


With continuously increasing expenditure on health care resources, various cost containment strategies have been suggested in regard to controlling the cost of inhalational anaesthetic agents. We performed a cost identification analysis assessing inhalational anaesthetic agent expenditure at a tertiary level hospital, along with an evaluation of strategies to contain the cost of these agents. The number of bottles of isoflurane, sevoflurane and desflurane used during the financial years 1997 to 2007 was retrospectively determined and the acquisition costs and cumulative drug expenditure calculated. Pharmacoeconomic modelling using low fresh gas flow anaesthesia was performed to evaluate practical methods of cost reduction. The use of isoflurane decreased from 384 bottles during 1997 to 204 in 2007. In contrast, use of sevoflurane increased from 226 bottles during 1998 to 875 during 2007. Desflurane use increased from 34 bottles per year during 2002 (its year of introduction) to 163 bottles per year in 2007. While the inflation-adjusted cumulative expenditure for these inhalational agents (Australian dollars) increased from $132,000 in 1997 to over $326,000 in 2007, an increase of 168%, patient workload over the same period increased by only 11%. Pharmacoeconomic modelling demonstrated that sevoflurane at 2 l/minute costs 19 times more than isoflurane at 0.5 l/minute. For the financial years 1997 to 2007, we found a progressive shift from the cheaper isoflurane to the more expensive agents, sevoflurane and desflurane, a shift associated with marked increases in costs. Low flow anaesthesia with isoflurane is one strategy to reduce costs.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Anesthesia, Inhalation / economics*
  • Anesthesia, Inhalation / methods
  • Anesthetics, Inhalation / administration & dosage
  • Anesthetics, Inhalation / economics*
  • Desflurane
  • Drug Costs
  • Economics, Pharmaceutical / trends*
  • Humans
  • Isoflurane / administration & dosage
  • Isoflurane / analogs & derivatives
  • Isoflurane / economics
  • Methyl Ethers / administration & dosage
  • Methyl Ethers / economics
  • Models, Economic
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sevoflurane


  • Anesthetics, Inhalation
  • Methyl Ethers
  • Sevoflurane
  • Desflurane
  • Isoflurane