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BMJ. May 18, 1996; 312(7041): 1274–1278.
PMCID: PMC2351093

What can be concluded from the Oxcheck and British family heart studies: commentary on cost effectiveness analyses.


OBJECTIVES--To provide a commentary on the economic evaluations of the Oxcheck and British family heart studies: direct comparison of their relative effectiveness and cost effectiveness; comparisons with other interventions; and consideration of problems encountered. DESIGN--Modelling from cost and effectiveness data to estimate of cost per life year gained. SUBJECTS--Middle aged men and women. INTERVENTIONS--Screening for cardiovascular risk factors followed by appropriate lifestyle advice and drug intervention in general practice, and other primary coronary risk management strategies. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES--Life years gained; cost per life year gained. RESULTS--Depending on the assumed duration of risk reduction, the programme cost per discounted life year gained ranged from 34,800 pounds for a 1 year duration to 1500 pounds for 20 years for the British family heart study and from 29,300 pounds to 900 pounds for Oxcheck. These figures exclude broader net clinical and cost effects and longer term clinical and cost effects other than coronary mortality. CONCLUSIONS--Despite differences in underlying methods, the estimates in the two economic analyses of the studies can be directly compared. Neither study was large enough to provide precise estimates of the overall net cost. Modelling to cost per life year gained provides more readily interpretable measures. These estimates emphasise the importance of the relatively weak evidence on duration effect. Only if the effect lasts at least five years is the Oxcheck programme likely to be cost effective. The effect must last for about 10 years to justify the extra cost associated with the British family heart study.

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Selected References

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