Cost-effectiveness of alternative strategies for the initial medical management of non-ST elevation acute coronary syndrome: systematic review and decision-analytical modelling

M Robinson, S Palmer, M Sculpher, Z Philips, L Ginnelly, A Bowens, S Golder, K Alfakih, A Bakhai, C Packham, N Cooper, K Abrams, A Eastwood, A Pearman, M Flather, D Gray, A Hall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


OBJECTIVES: To identify and prioritise key areas of clinical uncertainty regarding the medical management of non-ST elevation acute coronary syndrome (ACS) in current UK practice.

DATA SOURCES: Electronic databases. Consultations with clinical advisors. Postal survey of cardiologists.

REVIEW METHODS: Potential areas of important uncertainty were identified and 'decision problems' prioritised. A systematic literature review was carried out using standard methods. The constructed decision model consisted of a short-term phase that applied the results of the systematic review and a long-term phase that included relevant information from a UK observational study to extrapolate estimated costs and effects. Sensitivity analyses were undertaken to examine the dependence of the results on baseline parameters, using alternative data sources. Expected value of information analysis was undertaken to estimate the expected value of perfect information associated with the decision problem. This provided an upper bound on the monetary value associated with additional research in the area.

RESULTS: Seven current areas of clinical uncertainty (decision problems) in the drug treatment of unstable angina patients were identified. The agents concerned were clopidogrel, low molecular weight heparin, hirudin and intravenous glycoprotein antagonists (GPAs). Twelve published clinical guidelines for unstable angina or non-ST elevation ACS were identified, but few contained recommendations about the specified decision problems. The postal survey of clinicians showed that the greatest disagreement existed for the use of small molecule GPAs, and the greatest uncertainty existed for decisions relating to the use of abciximab (a large molecule GPA). Overall, decision problems concerning the GPA class of drugs were considered to be the highest priority for further study. Selected papers describing the clinical efficacy of treatment were divided into three groups, each representing an alternative strategy. The strategy involving the use of GPAs as part of the initial medical management of all non-ST elevation ACS was the optimal choice, with an incremental cost-effectiveness ratio (ICER) of 5738 pounds per quality-adjusted life-year (QALY) compared with no use of GPAs. Stochastic analysis showed that if the health service is willing to pay 10,000 pounds per additional QALY, the probability of this strategy being cost-effective was around 82%, increasing to 95% at a threshold of 50,000 pounds per QALY. A sensitivity analysis including an additional strategy of using GPAs as part of initial medical management only in patients at particular high risk (as defined by age, ST depression or diabetes) showed that this additional strategy was yet more cost-effective, with an ICER of 3996 pounds per QALY compared with no treatment with GPA. Value of information analysis suggested that there was considerable merit in additional research to reduce the level of uncertainty in the optimal decision. At a threshold of 10,000 pounds per QALY, the maximum potential value of such research in the base case was calculated as 12.7 million pounds per annum for the UK as a whole. Taking account of the greater uncertainty in the sensitivity analyses including clopidogrel, this figure was increased to approximately 50 million pounds.

CONCLUSIONS: This study suggests the use of GPAs in all non-ST elevation ACS patients as part of their initial medical management. Sensitivity analysis showed that virtually all of the benefit could be realised by treating only high-risk patients. Further clarification of the optimum role of GPAs in the UK NHS depends on the availability of further high-quality observational and trial data. Value of information analysis derived from the model suggests that a relatively large investment in such research may be worthwhile. Further research should focus on the identification of the characteristics of patients who benefit most from GPAs as part of medical management, the comparison of GPAs with clopidogrel as an adjunct to standard care, follow-up cohort studies of the costs and outcomes of high-risk non-ST elevation ACS over several years, and exploring how clinicians' decisions combine a normative evidence-based decision model with their own personal behavioural perspective.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)iii-iv, ix-xi, 1-158
JournalHealth technology assessment
Issue number27
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2005


  • Acute Disease
  • Adrenergic beta-Antagonists
  • Angina, Unstable
  • Anticoagulants
  • Calcium Channel Blockers
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Decision Support Techniques
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Humans
  • Myocardial Infarction
  • Platelet Aggregation Inhibitors
  • Platelet Glycoprotein GPIIb-IIIa Complex
  • Prognosis
  • Quality-Adjusted Life Years
  • Risk Assessment
  • Syndrome

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