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Pharmacoeconomics. 2019 Apr 22. doi: 10.1007/s40273-019-00800-w. [Epub ahead of print]

Cost Effectiveness of Treatments for Diabetic Retinopathy: A Systematic Literature Review.

Author information

Department of Health Services Organization, National School of Public Health, Athens, Greece.
NIHR Biomedical Research Centre, Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, 162 City Road, London, EC1V 2PD, UK.
Institute of Ophthalmology, University College London, London, UK.
Division of Optics and Optometry, Department of Biomedical Sciences, University of West Attica, Athens, Greece.



Diabetic retinopathy (DR) affects approximately one-third of people diagnosed with diabetes, can be sight-threatening, and generates significant human and economic burden. Over the last 2 decades, newer therapies have emerged, offering significant clinical benefits, however at a cost. Given the scarcity of available budgets, the cost effectiveness of these newer treatments is of vital importance to policy makers.


A systematic review was conducted in the PubMed, EMBASE, Cochrane, HEED and CRD databases to find and evaluate economic evaluations assessing the cost effectiveness of alterative DR treatments. Studies were assessed for their eligibility, findings and quality, and are presented in this systematic review.


Of the 5254 studies retrieved from the literature search, 17 were included in this review. For patients with proliferative DR, when early pars plana vitrectomy was compared with pan-retinal laser photocoagulation, similar cost per quality-adjusted life-year (QALY) was observed between the two. Treatment with either intravitreal ranibizumab (IVR) or intravitreal bevacizumab (IVB) falls within acceptable cost-effectiveness thresholds in the diabetic macular oedema (DMO) population; however, in the non-DMO population, the marginal benefit of IVR or IVB in relation to the marginal cost relative to laser does not justify their use. Among the anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) therapies, IVB appears more attractive from an economic point of view due to its lower cost. For patients with DMO, studies indicate that a combination therapy of IVR or IVB with laser and, to a lesser degree, as monotherapy, are cost effective relative to laser monotherapy; IVR plus laser is cost effective relative to laser plus triamcinolone; and laser combined with triamcinolone injections is reportedly more cost effective over IVR for pseudophakic eyes only. Moreover, fluocinolone implants appear cost effective compared with sham implants, or when treating refractory DMO. IVR administered either pro re nata (PRN) or as 'treat and extend' dominated intravitreal aflibercept (IVA) in a few studies. On the other hand, IVR monotherapy or with laser (as well as IVA) does not compare favourably relative to IVB monotherapy or with laser.


Interpretation of cost-effectiveness data should be treated with caution in this case; details of the therapeutic regimen, such as dosage and frequency, and clinical efficacy of the treatments should be considered in relation to policy-making decisions. Given the scarcity of resources, the ever-increasing significance of health technology assessment, and the substantial differences in the methodologies of the studies presented in this review, there is a pressing need for more advanced and standardised approaches to assessing the effectiveness and cost effectiveness of the emerging anti-VEGF pharmacotherapies for the treatment of DMO.


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