The Cost-Effectiveness of Atypicals in the UK

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Abstract

Background

In 2002, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), recommended atypical antipsychotics over conventional ones for first-line schizophrenia treatment, based on their lower risk of extrapyramidal symptoms.

Objective

To estimate the incremental cost-effectiveness of atypical relative to conventional antipsychotics for the treatment of schizophrenia in the UK.

Methods

A discrete event simulation (DES) model was adopted to reflect the treatment of schizophrenia in the UK. The model estimates symptoms (using the Positive and Negative Symptom Score [PANSS]), psychiatrist visits, pharmacological treatment and treatment location, number and duration of psychotic relapses, level of compliance, quality-adjusted life-years (QALYs), and side effects over a 5-year time period. Probabilistic sensitivity analyses were carried out. Following NICE's “atypical” recommendation, the cost-effectiveness of atypical versus conventional antipsychotics was estimated in a scenario analysis, assuming both groups differ only in side-effect profile.

Results

When comparing conventional and atypical antipsychotics, the model predicts that the latter would decrease 5-year costs by £1633 per patient and result in a QALY gain of 0.101. The probabilistic sensitivity analysis suggests these results are robust. The sensitivity analyses indicate that incremental costs and effects are most sensitive to the differential efficacy of atypicals and conventionals, as measured by PANSS. When it is assumed that the only differences between atypicals and conventionals are found in side-effect profiles, the incremental cost-effectiveness ratio of the atypicals is £45,000 per QALY gained.

Conclusion

According to this DES model for schizophrenia, atypical antipsychotics are cost-effective compared to the conventional antipsychotics. The assumptions used in the model need further validation through large naturalistic based studies with reasonable follow-up to determine the real-life differences between atypicals and conventional antipsychotics.

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