Background: Recently a less invasive method of screening and diagnosing Niemann-Pick C (NP-C) disease has emerged. This approach involves the use of a metabolic screening test (oxysterol assay) instead of the current practice of clinical assessment of patients suspected of NP-C (review of medical history, family history and clinical examination for the signs and symptoms). Our objective is to compare costs and outcomes of plasma oxysterol screening versus current practice in diagnosis of NP-C disease among intellectually disabled (ID) patients using decision-analytic methods.
Methods: A discrete event simulation model was conducted to follow ID patients through the diagnosis and treatment of NP-C, forecast the costs and effectiveness for a cohort of ID patients and compare the outcomes and costs in two different arms of the model: plasma oxysterol screening and routine diagnosis procedure (anno 2013) over 5 years of follow up. Data from published sources and clinical trials were used in simulation model. Unit costs and quality-adjusted life-years (QALYs) were discounted at a 3% annual rate in the base case analysis. Deterministic and probabilistic sensitivity analyses were conducted.
Results: The outcomes of the base case model showed that using plasma oxysterol screening for diagnosis of NP-C disease among ID patients is a dominant strategy. It would result in lower total cost and would slightly improve patients' quality of life. The average amount of cost saving was $3642 CAD and the incremental QALYs per each individual ID patient in oxysterol screening arm versus current practice of diagnosis NP-C was 0.0022 QALYs. Results of sensitivity analysis demonstrated robustness of the outcomes over the wide range of changes in model inputs.
Conclusion: Whilst acknowledging the limitations of this study, we conclude that screening ID children and adolescents with oxysterol tests compared to current practice for the diagnosis of NP-C is a dominant strategy with clinical and economic benefits. The less costly, more sensitive and specific oxysterol test has potential to save costs to the healthcare system while improving patients' quality of life and may be considered as a routine tool in the NP-C diagnosis armamentarium for ID. Further research is needed to elucidate its effectiveness in patients presenting characteristics other than ID in childhood and adolescence.
Keywords: Diagnosis; Filipin staining; Global developmental delay; Inborn error of metabolism; Intellectual disability; NPC1; NPC2; Oxysterol; Screening; Treatment.
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