Cost Effectiveness of Monoclonal Antibody Therapy for Rare Diseases: A Systematic Review

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Background: Monoclonal antibody (mAb)-based orphan drugs have led to advances in the treatment of diseases by selectively targeting molecule functions. However, their high treatment costs impose a substantial cost burden on patients and society. Objectives: The study aimed to systematically review cost-effectiveness evidence of mAb orphan drugs. Methods: Ovid MEDLINE®, EMBASE®, and PsycINFO® were searched in June 2014 and articles were selected if they conducted economic evaluations of the mAb orphan drugs that had received marketing approval in the USA. The quality of the selected studies was assessed using the Quality of Health Economic Studies (QHES) instrument. Results: We reviewed 16 articles that included 24 economic evaluations of nine mAb orphan drugs. Six of these nine drugs were included in cost-utility analysis studies, whereas three drugs were included in cost-effectiveness analysis studies. Previous cost-utility analysis studies revealed that four mAb orphan drugs (cetuximab, ipilimumab, rituximab, and trastuzumab) were found to be cost effective; one drug (bevacizumab) was not cost effective; and one drug (infliximab) was not consistent across the studies. Prior cost-effectiveness analysis studies which included three mAb orphan drugs (adalimumab, alemtuzumab, and basiliximab) showed that the incremental cost per effectiveness gained for these drugs ranged from Can52,536 Canadian dollars. The quality of the included studies was good or fair with the exception of one study. Conclusions: Some mAb orphan drugs were reported as cost effective under the current decision-making processes. Use of these expensive drugs, however, can raise an equity issue which concerns fairness in access to treatment. The issue of equal access to drugs needs to be considered alongside other societal values in making the final health policy decisions.

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