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JAMA. 1998 Jan 14;279(2):130-6.

The cost-effectiveness of preventing AIDS-related opportunistic infections.

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  • 1Clinical Economics Research Unit, Boston Medical Center, MA 02118, USA.

Erratum in

  • JAMA 1999 Jun 2;281(21):1989.



Multiple options are now available for prophylaxis of opportunistic infections related to the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). However, because of differences in incidence rates as well as drug efficacy, toxicity, and costs, the role of different types of prophylaxis remains uncertain.


To determine the clinical impact, cost, and cost-effectiveness of strategies for preventing opportunistic infections in patients with advanced human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) disease.


We developed a Markov simulation model to compare different strategies for prophylaxis of Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP), toxoplasmosis, Mycobacterium avium complex (MAC) infection, fungal infections, and cytomegalovirus (CMV) disease in HIV-infected patients. Data for the model were derived from the Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study, randomized controlled trials, and the national AIDS Cost and Services Utilization Survey.


Projected life expectancy, quality-adjusted life expectancy, total lifetime direct medical costs, and cost-effectiveness in dollars per quality-adjusted life-year (QALY) saved.


For patients with CD4 cell counts of 0.200 to 0.300 x 10(9)/L (200-300/microL) who receive no prophylaxis, we projected a quality-adjusted life expectancy of 39.08 months and average total lifetime costs of $40288. Prophylaxis for PCP and toxoplasmosis with trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole for patients with CD4 cell counts of 0.200 x 10(9)/L (200/microL) or less increased quality-adjusted life expectancy to 42.56 months, implying an incremental cost of $16000 per QALY saved. Prophylaxis for MAC for patients with CD4 cell counts of 0.050 x 10(9)/L (50/microL) or less produced smaller gains in quality-adjusted life expectancy; incremental cost-effectiveness ratios were $35000 per QALY saved for azithromycin and $74000 per QALY saved for rifabutin. Oral ganciclovir for the prevention of CMV infection was the least cost-effective prophylaxis ($314000 per QALY saved). Results were most sensitive to the risk of developing an opportunistic infection, the impact of opportunistic infection history on long-term survival, and the cost of prophylaxis.


The cost-effectiveness of prophylaxis against HIV-related opportunistic infections varies widely, but prophylaxis against PCP or toxoplasmosis and against MAC delivers the greatest comparative value. In an era of limited resources, these results can be used to set priorities and explore new alternatives for improving HIV patient care.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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