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Cost-utility analysis of prophylactic treatment with oral ganciclovir for cytomegalovirus retinitis.

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  • 1Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland 21205, U.S.A.



Cytomegalovirus (CMV) retinitis is a relatively common opportunistic infection in late-stage HIV disease, causing significant morbidity and mortality. Prophylactic use of oral ganciclovir has recently been shown to decrease the incidence of CMV retinitis but is relatively expensive and may not be very well tolerated by many patients. We performed a decision analysis to assess the cost-effectiveness of prophylactic oral ganciclovir therapy.


A decision analysis using a Markov approach compared absence of prophylaxis and prophylaxis with oral ganciclovir. Estimates of effectiveness of prophylaxis and costs of illness were obtained from published literature. Drug costs were based on national average wholesale prices. All health care costs were based on 1996 U.S. dollars. Sensitivity analyses were done over ranges of estimates of cost and effectiveness.


Using our baseline estimates of cost and effectiveness, use of oral ganciclovir prophylaxis in patients with CD4 counts <50 cells/mm3 would be associated with average lifetime health care costs of $104,746, compared with $90,985 for no prophylaxis. Using oral ganciclovir, the average quality-adjusted life-years (QALYs) would be 2.05, and the CMV retinitis-free life-years would be 1.64, compared with 1.87 and 1.27, respectively, for no prophylaxis. The incremental cost-utility of oral ganciclovir is $76,676 per year of life saved and $37,542 per year of additional CMV retinitis-free life. Oral ganciclovir would become more cost-effective relative to no prophylaxis if the probability of CMV retinitis while taking oral ganciclovir declined. Oral ganciclovir would be less cost-effective if the cost of treating CMV retinitis declines, if our estimates of quality of life are low, or if the overall incidence of CMV retinitis declines.


Oral ganciclovir is a less cost-effective approach than several other interventions used for HIV-disease prophylaxis. It would potentially become cost-effective if it is possible to target oral ganciclovir prophylaxis to patients who are most likely to benefit.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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