Cost-utility of adjuvant hormone therapies for breast cancer in post-menopausal women: sequential tamoxifen-exemestane and upfront anastrozole

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Adjuvant Anastrozole (ANA) for 5 years and Tamoxifen followed by Exemestane (TAM-EXE) for 2.5 years each have become acceptable alternatives to 5 years of Tamoxifen (TAM) for post-menopausal women with breast cancer. As these newer options are associated with higher drug costs as well as improved outcomes, an economic evaluation was undertaken to compare the cost-utility of ANA and TAM-EXE relative to TAM alone and to each other in terms of cost per quality-adjusted life year (QALY) gained.


A Markov model was developed to calculate monthly costs and outcomes in a hypothetical cohort of post-menopausal women with early-stage breast cancer. Baseline rates of cancer recurrence and adverse effects with TAM, and hazard ratios associated with ANA and EXE, were derived from the ATAC and IES trials. Patients received hormonal therapy for 5 years and benefit was modeled to persist 5 years beyond treatment. The analysis took a direct payer perspective with a 20-year time horizon. Costs and outcomes were discounted by 3%. Costs are in 2005 Canadian dollars.


ANA and TAM-EXE were associated with increased costs and QALYs, though the cost-utility of both relative to TAM alone was strongly favourable (<$50,000/QALY). Based on an indirect comparison of ANA and TAM-EXE, using TAM alone as a common comparator, the cost-utility of ANA relative to TAM-EXE appears unfavourable.


Both upfront and sequential AI options were cost-effective alternatives to TAM alone, but TAM-EXE appears to be the economically preferred AI option based on its more favourable cost-utility versus ANA.

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