Objective: To determine whether Medicare's decision to cover routine administration of erythropoietin stimulating agents (ESAs) to treat anemia of end-stage renal disease (ESRD) has been a cost-effective policy relative to standard of care at the time. Methods: The authors used summary statistics from the actual cohort of ESRD patients receiving ESAs between 1995 and 2004 to create a simulated patient cohort, which was compared with a comparable simulated cohort assumed to rely solely on blood transfusions. Outcomes modeled from the Medicare perspective included estimated treatment costs, life-years gained, and quality-adjusted life-years (QALYs). Incremental cost-effectiveness ratio (ICER) was calculated relative to the hypothetical reference case of no ESA use in the transfusion cohort. Sensitivity of the results to model assumptions was tested using one-way and probabilistic sensitivity analyses. Results: Estimated total costs incurred by the ESRD population were $155.47B for the cohort receiving ESAs and $155.22B for the cohort receiving routine blood transfusions. Estimated QALYs were 2.56M and 2.29M, respectively, for the two groups. The ICER of ESAs compared to routine blood transfusions was estimated as $873 per QALY gained. The model was sensitive to a number of parameters according to one-way and probabilistic sensitivity analyses. Limitations: This model was counter-factual as the actual comparison group, whose anemia was managed via transfusion and iron supplements, rapidly disappeared following introduction of ESAs. In addition, a large number of model parameters were obtained from observational studies due to the lack of randomized trial evidence in the literature. Conclusions: This study indicates that Medicare's coverage of ESAs appears to have been cost effective based on commonly accepted levels of willingness-to-pay. The ESRD population achieved substantial clinical benefit at a reasonable cost to society.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Health Policy