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Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2007 Oct 15;26(8):1147-61.

The cost-effectiveness and budget impact of competing therapies in hepatic encephalopathy - a decision analysis.

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  • 1David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, Los Angeles, California, USA.



Treatment options for hepatic encephalopathy have disparate risks and benefits. Non-absorbable disaccharides and neomycin are limited by uncertain efficacy and common dose-limiting side effects. In contrast, rifaximin is safe and effective in hepatic encephalopathy, but is more expensive.


We conducted a decision analysis to calculate the cost-effectiveness of six strategies in hepatic encephalopathy: (i) no hepatic encephalopathy treatment, (ii) lactulose monotherapy, (iii) lactitol monotherapy, (iv) neomycin monotherapy, (v) rifaximin monotherapy and (vi) up-front lactulose with crossover to rifaximin if poor response or intolerance of lactulose ('rifaximin salvage'). The primary outcome was cost per quality-adjusted life-year gained.


Under base-case conditions, 'do nothing' was least effective and rifaximin salvage was most effective. Lactulose monotherapy was least expensive, and rifaximin monotherapy was most expensive. When balancing cost and effectiveness, lactulose monotherapy and rifaximin salvage dominated alternative strategies. Compared to lactulose monotherapy, rifaximin salvage cost an incremental US$2315 per quality-adjusted life-year-gained. The cost of rifaximin had to fall below US$1.03/tab in order for rifaximin monotherapy to dominate lactulose monotherapy.


Rifaximin monotherapy is not cost-effective in the treatment of chronic hepatic encephalopathy at current average wholesale prices. However, a hybrid salvage strategy, reserving rifaximin for lactulose-refractory patients, may be highly cost-effective.

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