The American journal of medicine

Cost-effectiveness of osteoporosis interventions for 'incidental' vertebral fractures.

PMID 23331449


Vertebral fractures detected "incidentally" by chest radiograph usually do not trigger osteoporosis treatment in older patients. In a 3-arm controlled trial we reported that both physician-directed and enhanced (physician plus patient activation) interventions increased treatment rates more than 10-fold (15%-20% absolute increases) compared with usual care; the cost-effectiveness of these interventions is unknown. Incremental cost-effectiveness of these 2 interventions compared with usual care was assessed using a Markov decision-analytic model, populated with 1-year outcomes data and direct intervention costs from the trial. Costs were expressed in 2009 Canadian dollars and effectiveness based on quality-adjusted life years (QALYs) gained. The perspective was health care payer; horizon was projected lifetime; costs and benefits were discounted at 3%; and deterministic and probabilistic sensitivity analyses were conducted. Per patient, the physician and enhanced interventions cost $34 and $42, respectively. Compared with usual care, for every 1000 patients exposed to the physican intervention there were 4 fewer fractures, 8 more QALYs gained, and $282,000 saved. Compared with physician interventions, for every 1000 patients exposed to enhanced interventions there were 6 fewer fractures, 6 more QALYs gained, and $339,000 saved. Both interventions dominated usual care and were cost-effective in ~80% of 10,000 probabilistic simulations. Although the enhanced intervention cost $8 more per patient, it still dominated the physician intervention and usual care, and was the most economically attractive option. Pragmatic and inexpensive interventions directed at patients with incidentally detected vertebral fractures and their physicians are highly cost-effective at improving osteoporosis treatment, and in most circumstances also are cost-saving.