In response to the rising threat of resistance to first-line antibiotics for gonorrhea, international guidelines recommend dual antimicrobial therapy. However, some countries continue to recommend monotherapy. We assess the cost-effectiveness of dual therapy with ceftriaxone and azithromycin compared with monotherapy with ceftriaxone, for control of gonorrhea among men who have sex with men in the Netherlands.Methods
We developed a transmission model and calculated the numbers of new gonorrhea infections, consultations at health care specialists, tests, and antibiotic doses. With these numbers, we calculated costs and quality-adjusted life-years (QALY) with each treatment; and the incremental cost-effectiveness ratio (ICER) of dual therapy compared to monotherapy. The impact of gonorrhea on human immunodeficiency virus transmission was not included in the model.Results
In the absence of initial resistance, dual therapy can delay the spread of ceftriaxone resistance by at least 15 years, compared to monotherapy. In the beginning, when there is no resistance, dual therapy results in high additional costs, without any QALY gains. When resistance spreads over time, the additional costs of dual therapy decline, the gained QALYs increase, the ICER drops off and, after 50 years, falls below €20,000 per QALY gained. If azithromycin resistance is initially prevalent, resistance to the first-line treatment rises almost equally fast with both treatment strategies and the ICER remains extremely high.Conclusions
Compared with ceftriaxone monotherapy, dual therapy with ceftriaxone and azithromycin can considerably delay the spread of ceftriaxone resistance, but may only be cost-effective in the long run and in the absence of initial resistance.