Sugammadex for the reversal of muscle relaxation in general anaesthesia: a systematic review and economic assessment

D. Chambers, M. Paulden, F. Paton, M. Heirs, S. Duffy, D. Craig, J. Hunter, J. Wilson, M. Sculpher, N. Woolacott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Sugammadex (Bridion (R)) is a newly developed agent for the reversal of neuromuscular blockade (NMB) induced by rocuronium or vecuronium. Sugammadex can reverse profound blockade and can be given for immediate reversal and its use would avoid the potentially serious adverse effects of the currently used agent, succinylcholine. Also, sugammadex can reverse NMB more quickly and predictably than existing agents.

Objectives: To determine the clinical effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of sugammadex for the reversal of muscle relaxation after general anaesthesia in UK practice following routine or rapid induction of NMB.

Data sources: Medical databases [including MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL, Science Citation Index, BIOSIS and Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL), conference proceedings, internet sites and clinical trials registers] were searched to identify published and unpublished studies. The main searches were carried out in May 2008 and supplemented by current awareness updates up until November 2008.

Review methods: For the clinical effectiveness review, randomised controlled trials of sugammadex against placebo or an active comparator (neostigmine+glycopyrrolate) for the reversal of moderate or profound NMB and for immediate reversal (spontaneous recovery from succinylcholine-induced blockade) were included. The primary effectiveness outcome was speed of recovery from NMB, as measured by objective monitoring of neuromuscular function. For the cost-effectiveness review, a de novo economic assessment considered the routine induction of NMB and the rapid induction and/or reversal of NMB, and threshold analyses were carried out on a series of pairwise comparisons to establish how effective sugammadex needs to be to justify its cost.

Results: The review of clinical effectiveness included four randomised active-control trials of sugammadex, nine randomised placebo-controlled trials and five studies in special populations. A total of 2132 titles and abstracts and 265 full-text publications were screened. The included trials indicated that sugammadex produces more rapid recovery from moderate or profound NMB than placebo or neostigmine. Median time to recovery from moderate blockade was 1.3-1.7 minutes for rocuronium + sugammadex, 21-86 minutes for rocuronium + placebo and 17.6 minutes for rocuronium + neostigmine. In profound blockade, median time to recovery was 2.7 minutes for rocuronium + sugammadex, 30 to >90 minutes for rocuronium + placebo, and 49 minutes for rocuronium + neostigmine. Results for vecuronium were similar. In addition, recovery from NMB was faster with rocuronium reversed by sugammadex 16mg/kg after 3 minutes (immediate reversal) than with succinylcholine followed by spontaneous recovery (median time to primary outcome 4.2 versus 7.1 minutes). The evidence base for modelling cost-effectiveness is very limited. However, assuming that the reductions in recovery times seen in the trials can be achieved in routine practice and can be used productively, sugammadex [2 mg/kg (4 mg/kg)] is potentially cost-effective at its current list price for the routine reversal of rocuronium-induced moderate (profound) blockade, if each minute of recovery time saved can be valued at approximately 2.40 pound ( 1.75) pound or more. This is more likely to be achieved if any reductions in recovery time are in the operating room (estimated value of 4.44 pound per minute saved) rather than the recovery room (estimated value of 0.33 pound per minute saved). The results were broadly similar for rocuronium- and vecuronium-induced blockade. For rapid reversal of NMB it appeared that any reduction in morbidity from adopting sugammadex is unlikely to result in significant cost savings.

Limitations: The evidence base was not large and many of the published trials were dose-finding and safety studies with very small sample sizes. Also, some relevant outcomes, in particular patient experience/quality of life and resources/costs used, were either not investigated or not reported. In addition, it is likely that the patients included in the efficacy trials were relatively young and in good general health compared with the overall surgical population. Regarding the economic evaluation, there appears to be no evidence linking measures of clinical efficacy to patients' healthrelated quality of life and mortality risks.

Conclusions: Sugammadex may be a cost-effective option compared with neostigmine + glycopyrrolate for reversal of moderate NMB and also provides the facility to recover patients from profound blockade. Rocuronium + sugammadex could be considered as a replacement for succinylcholine for rapid induction (and reversal) of NMB, although this may not be a cost-effective option in some types of patient at current list prices for sugammadex. Considerable uncertainties remain about whether the full benefits of sugammadex can be realised in clinical practice.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-211
Number of pages211
JournalHealth technology assessment
Issue number39
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2010

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