Cost in perspective: direct assessment of American market acceptability of Co-60 in gynecologic high-dose-rate brachytherapy and contrast with experience abroad

J Contemp Brachytherapy. 2018 Dec;10(6):503-509. doi: 10.5114/jcb.2018.79928. Epub 2018 Dec 28.


Purpose: While Ir-192 remains the mainstay isotope for gynecologic high-dose-rate (HDR) brachytherapy in the U.S., Co-60 is used abroad. Co-60 has a longer half-life than Ir-192, which may lead to long-term cost savings; however, its higher energy requires greater shielding. This study analyzes Co-60 acceptability based on a one-time expense of additional shielding and reports the financial experience of Co-60 in Peru's National Cancer Institute, which uses both isotopes.

Material and methods: A nationwide survey was undertaken assessing physician knowledge of Co-60 and willingness-to-pay (WTP) for additional shielding, assuming a source more cost-effective than Ir-192 was available. With 440 respondents, 280 clinicians were decision-makers and provided WTPs, with results previously reported. After completing a shielding report, we estimated costs for shielding expansion, noting acceptability to decision makers' WTP. Using activity-based costing, we note the Peruvian fiscal experience.

Results: Shielding estimates ranged from $173,000 to $418,000. The percentage of respondents accepting high-density modular or lead shielding (for union and non-union settings) were 17.5%, 11.4%, 3.9%, and 3.2%, respectively. Shielding acceptance was associated with greater number of radiation oncologists in a respondent's department but not time in practice or the American Brachytherapy Society membership. Peru's experience noted cost savings with Co-60 of $52,400 annually.

Conclusions: By comparing the cost of additional shielding for a sample institution's HDR suite with radiation oncologists' WTP, this multi-institutional collaboration noted < 20% of clinicians would accept additional shielding. Despite low acceptability in the US, Co-60 demonstrates cost-favorability in Peru and may similarly in other locations.

Keywords: HDR; brachytherapy; cobalt-60; costs and cost analysis; decision-making; economics; gynecologic tumor; survey.