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1.  Conversion of daily pegvisomant to weekly pegvisomant combined with long-acting somatostatin analogs, in controlled acromegaly patients 
Pituitary  2011;14(3):253-258.
The efficacy of combined treatment in active acromegaly with both long-acting somatostatin analogs (SRIF) and pegvisomant (PEG-V) has been well established. The aim was to describe the PEG-V dose reductions after the conversion from daily PEG-V to combination treatment. To clarify the individual beneficial and adverse effects, in two acromegaly patients, who only normalized their insulin like growth factor (IGF-I) levels with high-dose pegvisomant therapy. We present two cases of a 31 and 44 years old male with gigantism and acromegaly that were controlled subsequently by surgery, radiotherapy, SRIF analogs and daily PEG-V treatment. They were converted to combined treatment of monthly SSA and (twice) weekly PEG-V. High dose SSA treatment was added while the PEG-V dose was decreased during carful monitoring of the IGF-I. After switching from PEG-V monotherapy to SRIF analogs plus pegvisomant combination therapy IGF-I remained normal. However, the necessary PEG-V dose, to normalize IGF-I differed significantly between these two patients. One patient needed twice weekly 100 mg, the second needed 60 mg once weekly on top of their monthly lanreotide Autosolution injections of 120 mg. The weekly dose reduction was 80 and 150 mg. After the introducing of lanreotide, fasting glucose and glycosylated haemoglobin concentrations increased. Diabetic medication had to be introduced or increased. No changes in liver tests or in pituitary adenoma size were observed. In these two patients, PEG-V in combination with long-acting SRIF analogs was as effective as PEG-V monotherapy in normalizing IGF-I levels, although significant dose-reductions in PEG-V could be achieved. However, there seems to be a wide variation in the reduction of PEG-V dose, which can be obtained after conversion to combined treatment.
PMCID: PMC3146981  PMID: 21221818
Pituitary tumor; Acromegaly; Acromegaly treatment; Pegvisomant; Combined treatment; Somatostatin analogs
2.  Clinical, quality of life, and economic value of acromegaly disease control 
Pituitary  2011;14(3):284-294.
Although acromegaly is a rare disease, the clinical, economic and health-related quality of life (HRQoL) burden is considerable due to the broad spectrum of comorbidities as well as the need for lifelong management. We performed a comprehensive literature review of the past 12 years (1998–2010) to determine the benefit of disease control (defined as a growth hormone [GH] concentration <2.5 μg/l and insulin-like growth factor [IGF]-1 normal for age) on clinical, HRQoL, and economic outcomes. Increased GH and IGF-1 levels and low frequency of somatostatin analogue use directly predicted increased mortality risk. Clinical outcome measures that may improve with disease control include joint articular cartilage thickness, vertebral fractures, left ventricular function, exercise capacity and endurance, lipid profile, and obstructive apnea events. Some evidence suggests an association between controlled disease and improved HRQoL. Total direct treatment costs were higher for patients with uncontrolled compared to controlled disease. Costs incurred for management of comorbidities, and indirect cost could further add to treatment costs. Optimizing disease control in patients with acromegaly appears to improve outcomes. Future studies need to evaluate clinical outcomes, as well as HRQoL and comprehensive economic outcomes achieved with controlled disease.
PMCID: PMC3146976  PMID: 21597975
Acromegaly; Somatostatin analogues; Octreotide; Lanreotide; Quality of life; Morbidity; Mortality
3.  Features at diagnosis of 324 patients with acromegaly did not change from 1981 to 2006; Acromegaly remains under-recognized and under-diagnosed 
Clinical endocrinology  2009;72(2):203-208.
Traditionally, acromegaly evaded diagnosis until in its clinically obvious later stages when treatment is more difficult. Over the last 25 years diagnostic tests have improved, but whether clinical disease detection also improved was unknown so we tested if disease severity at diagnosis had changed from 1981 to 2006.
Data on 324 consecutive acromegaly patients presenting from 1981–2006 at two New York City hospitals were collected by retrospective review (n=324) and by interview (n=200). The main complaint, acromegaly-associated co-morbidities, signs, symptoms, healthcare providers visited, pre-operative growth hormone (GH) and insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-I) levels and pituitary tumor size at diagnosis were compared in patients presenting in the earlier vs. later halves of the time period.
Times from symptom onset to diagnosis were 5.9 yr. (early) vs. 5.2 yr. (late)(p=ns). At diagnosis, 96% of early and late groups had facial feature changes and/or hand/foot enlargement. Co-morbidities included hypertension (HTN) 37 % (early) vs. 36% (late), carpal tunnel syndrome (24 vs. 24%), sleep apnea (13 vs. 29%)(p <0.01), osteoarthritis (25 vs. 23%), and diabetes mellitus (DM) (18 vs.15%); each patient had 1.2 (early) vs. 1.3 (late) (p=0.53) co-morbidities. Groups were similar in signs, symptoms, tumor size, GH and IGF-I.
Clinical, biochemical and tumor size characteristics at diagnosis of acromegaly patients were unchanged from 1981–2006. Most patients still have marked manifestations of acromegaly at diagnosis suggesting that acromegaly remains clinically under-recognized. Healthcare professionals should more commonly consider acromegaly, which can lead to earlier diagnosis and better treatment outcome.
PMCID: PMC2866138  PMID: 19473180
Acromegaly; pituitary tumor; growth hormone; insulin-like growth factor 1
4.  IL28B, HLA-C, and KIR Variants Additively Predict Response to Therapy in Chronic Hepatitis C Virus Infection in a European Cohort: A Cross-Sectional Study 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(9):e1001092.
Vijayaprakash Suppiah and colleagues show that genotyping hepatitis C patients for the IL28B, HLA-C, and KIR genes improves the ability to predict whether or not patients will respond to antiviral treatment.
To date, drug response genes have not proved as useful in clinical practice as was anticipated at the start of the genomic era. An exception is in the treatment of chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) genotype 1 infection with pegylated interferon-alpha and ribavirin (PegIFN/R). Viral clearance is achieved in 40%–50% of patients. Interleukin 28B (IL28B) genotype predicts treatment-induced and spontaneous clearance. To improve the predictive value of this genotype, we studied the combined effect of variants of IL28B with human leukocyte antigen C (HLA-C), and its ligands the killer immunoglobulin-like receptors (KIR), which have previously been implicated in HCV viral control.
Methods and Findings
We genotyped chronic hepatitis C (CHC) genotype 1 patients with PegIFN/R treatment-induced clearance (n = 417) and treatment failure (n = 493), and 234 individuals with spontaneous clearance, for HLA-C C1 versus C2, presence of inhibitory and activating KIR genes, and two IL28B SNPs, rs8099917 and rs12979860. All individuals were Europeans or of European descent. IL28B SNP rs8099917 “G” was associated with absence of treatment-induced clearance (odds ratio [OR] 2.19, p = 1.27×10−8, 1.67–2.88) and absence of spontaneous clearance (OR 3.83, p = 1.71×10−14, 2.67–5.48) of HCV, as was rs12979860, with slightly lower ORs. The HLA-C C2C2 genotype was also over-represented in patients who failed treatment (OR 1.52, p = 0.024, 1.05–2.20), but was not associated with spontaneous clearance. Prediction of treatment failure improved from 66% with IL28B to 80% using both genes in this cohort (OR 3.78, p = 8.83×10−6, 2.03–7.04). There was evidence that KIR2DL3 and KIR2DS2 carriage also altered HCV treatment response in combination with HLA-C and IL28B.
Genotyping for IL28B, HLA-C, and KIR genes improves prediction of HCV treatment response. These findings support a role for natural killer (NK) cell activation in PegIFN/R treatment-induced clearance, partially mediated by IL28B.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
About 170 million people harbor long-term (chronic) infections with the hepatitis C virus (HCV) and 3–4 million people are newly infected with the virus every year. HCV—a leading cause of chronic hepatitis (inflammation of the liver)—is spread though contact with infected blood. Transmission can occur during medical procedures (for example, transfusions with unscreened blood or reuse of inadequately sterilized medical instruments) but in developed countries, where donated blood is routinely screened for HCV, the most common transmission route is needle-sharing among intravenous drug users. HCV infection can cause a short-lived illness characterized by tiredness and jaundice (yellow skin and eyes) but 70%–80% of newly infected people progress to a symptom-free, chronic infection that can eventually cause liver cirrhosis (scarring) and liver cancer. HCV infections can be treated with a combination of two drugs—pegylated interferon-alpha and ribavirin (PegIFN/R). However, PegIFN/R is expensive, causes unpleasant side-effects, and is ineffective in about half of people infected with HCV genotype 1, the commonest HCV strain.
Why Was This Study Done?
It would be extremely helpful to be able to identify which patients will respond to PegIFN/R before starting treatment. An individual's genetic make-up plays a key role in the safety and effectiveness of drugs. Thus, pharmacogenomics—the study of how genetic variants affects the body's response to drugs—has the potential to alter the clinical management of many diseases by allowing clinicians to provide individually tailored drug treatments. In 2009, scientists reported that certain single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs, a type of genetic variant) lying near the IL28B gene (which encodes an immune system protein made in response to viral infections) strongly influence treatment outcomes and spontaneous clearance in HCV-infected people. This discovery is now being used to predict treatment responses to PegIFN/R in clinical practice but genotyping (analysis of variants of) IL28B only correctly predicts treatment failure two-thirds of the time. Here, the researchers investigate whether genotyping two additional regions of the genome—the HLA-C and KIR gene loci—can improve the predictive value of IL28B genotyping. Human leukocyte antigen C (HLA-C) and the killer immunoglobulin-like receptors (KIRs) are interacting proteins that have been implicated in HCV viral control.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers genotyped 417 patients chronically infected with HCV genotype 1 whose infection had been cleared by PegIFN/R treatment, 493 patients whose infection had not responded to treatment, and 234 patients whose infection had cleared spontaneously for two HLA-C variants (C1 and C2), the presence of several KIR genes (individuals carry different combinations of KIR genes), and two IL28B SNPs (rs8099917 and rs12979860). Carriage of “variants” of either IL28B SNP was associated with absence of treatment-induced clearance and absence of spontaneous clearance. That is, these variant SNPs were found more often in patients who did not respond to treatment than in those who did respond, and more often in patients who did not have spontaneous clearance of their infection than those who did. The HLA-C C2C2 genotype (there are two copies of most genes in the genome) was also more common in patients who failed treatment than in those who responded but was not associated with spontaneous clearance. The rate of correct prediction of treatment failure increased from 66% with IL28B genotyping alone to 80% with combined IL28B and HLA-C genotyping. Finally, carriage of specific KIR genes in combination with specific HLA-C and IL28B variants was also associated with an altered HCV treatment response.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that the addition of HCL-C and KIR genotyping to IL28B genotyping improved the prediction of HCV treatment response in the patients investigated in this study. Because all these patients were European or of European descent, these findings need confirming in people of other ethnic backgrounds. They also need confirming in other groups of Europeans before being used in a clinical setting. However, the discovery that the addition of HLA-C genotyping to IL28B genotyping raises the rate of correct prediction of PegIFN/R treatment failure to 80% is extremely promising and should improve the clinical management of patients infected with HCV genotype 1. In addition, these results provide new insights into how PegIFN/R clears HCV infections that may lead to improved therapies in the future.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at
The World Health Organization provides detailed information about hepatitis C (in several languages)
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information on hepatitis C for the public and for health professionals (information is also available in Spanish)
The US National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases provides basic information on hepatitis C (in English and Spanish)
The Hepatitis C Trust is a patient-led, patient-run UK charity that provides detailed information about hepatitis C and support for patients and their families; a selection of personal stories about patients' experiences with hepatitis C is available, including Phil's treatment story, which details the ups and downs of treatment with PegIFN/R
MedlinePlus provides links to further resources on hepatitis C
The Human Genome Project provides information about medicine and the new genetics, including a primer on pharmacogenomics
PMCID: PMC3172251  PMID: 21931540
5.  Therapeutic options in the management of acromegaly: focus on lanreotide Autogel® 
Biologics : Targets & Therapy  2008;2(3):463-479.
In acromegaly, expert surgery is curative in only about 60% of patients. Postoperative radiation therapy is associated with a high incidence of hypopituitarism and its effect on growth hormone (GH) production is slow, so that adjuvant medical treatment becomes of importance in the management of many patients.
To delineate the role of lanreotide in the treatment of acromegaly.
Search of Medline, Embase, and Web of Science databases for clinical studies of lanreotide in acromegaly.
Treatment with lanreotide slow release and lanreotide Autogel® normalized GH and insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I) concentrations in about 50% of patients. The efficacy of 120 mg lanreotide Autogel® on GH and IGF-I levels was comparable with that of 20 mg octreotide LAR. There were no differences in improvement of cardiac function, decrease in pancreatic β-cell function, or occurrence of side effects, including cholelithiasis, between octreotide LAR and lanreotide Autogel®. When postoperative treatment with somatostatin analogs does not result in normalization of serum IGF-I and GH levels after noncurative surgery, pegvisomant alone or in combination with somatostatin analogs can control these levels in a substantial number of patients.
PMCID: PMC2721386  PMID: 19707377
acromegaly; lanreotide; somatostatin analog; growth hormone; pegvisomant
6.  Cryptococcal Meningitis Treatment Strategies in Resource-Limited Settings: A Cost-Effectiveness Analysis 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(9):e1001316.
David Boulware and colleagues assess the cost effectiveness of different treatment strategies in low- and middle-income countries for cryptococcal meningitis, one of the most common opportunistic infections of people with HIV.
Cryptococcal meningitis (CM) is the most common form of meningitis in Africa. World Health Organization guidelines recommend 14-d amphotericin-based induction therapy; however, this is impractical for many resource-limited settings due to cost and intensive monitoring needs. A cost-effectiveness analysis was performed to guide stakeholders with respect to optimal CM treatment within resource limitations.
Methods and Findings:
We conducted a decision analysis to estimate the incremental cost-effectiveness ratio (ICER) of six CM induction regimens: fluconazole (800–1,200 mg/d) monotherapy, fluconazole + flucytosine (5FC), short-course amphotericin (7-d) + fluconazole, 14-d of amphotericin alone, amphotericin + fluconazole, and amphotericin + 5FC. We computed actual 2012 healthcare costs in Uganda for medications, supplies, and personnel, and average laboratory costs for three African countries. A systematic review of cryptococcal treatment trials in resource-limited areas summarized 10-wk survival outcomes. We modeled one-year survival based on South African, Ugandan, and Thai CM outcome data, and survival beyond one-year on Ugandan and Thai data. Quality-adjusted life years (QALYs) were determined and used to calculate the cost-effectiveness ratio and ICER. The cost of hospital care ranged from $154 for fluconazole monotherapy to $467 for 14 d of amphotericin + 5FC. Based on 18 studies investigating outcomes for HIV-infected individuals with CM in resource-limited settings, the estimated mean one-year survival was lowest for fluconazole monotherapy, at 40%. The cost-effectiveness ratio ranged from $20 to $44 per QALY. Overall, amphotericin-based regimens had higher costs but better survival. Short-course amphotericin (1 mg/kg/d for 7 d) with fluconazole (1,200 mg/d for14 d) had the best one-year survival (66%) and the most favorable cost-effectiveness ratio, at $20.24/QALY, with an ICER of $15.11 per additional QALY over fluconazole monotherapy. The main limitation of this study is the pooled nature of a systematic review, with a paucity of outcome data with direct comparisons between regimens.
Short-course (7-d) amphotericin induction therapy coupled with high-dose (1,200 mg/d) fluconazole is “very cost effective” per World Health Organization criteria and may be a worthy investment for policy-makers seeking cost-effective clinical outcomes. More head-to-head clinical trials are needed on treatments for this neglected tropical disease.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary.
Editors' Summary
Cryptococcal meningitis, a fungal infection of the membranes around the brain and spinal cord, affects about a million people every year (most of them living in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia) and kills about 640,000 people annually. People become infected with Cryptococcus neoformans, the fungus that causes cryptococcal meningitis and which is found in soil and dirt, by breathing it in. In healthy individuals, infection rarely causes disease. But in people living with AIDS, whose immune system has been damaged by HIV infection, and in people whose immune system is compromised for other reasons, the fungus can invade and damage many organs, including the brain. Cryptococcal meningitis, the symptoms of which include fever, stiff neck, headache, and vomiting, is diagnosed by looking for the fungus in fluid taken from the spinal cord in a procedure called a lumbar puncture. Cryptococcal meningitis is treated with antifungal drugs such as amphotericin, fluconazole, and flucytosine (induction therapy); recurrence of the infection is prevented by taking fluconazole daily for life or until the immune system recovers.
Why Was This Study Done?
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends a 14-day regimen of intravenous (injected) amphotericin and oral flucytosine or fluconazole for induction therapy of cryptococcal meningitis. Unfortunately, this regimen is impractical in many resource-limited settings because of the cost of the drugs and hospital care and the need for intensive monitoring—amphotericin is extremely toxic. Consequently, high-dose fluconazole monotherapy is the usual treatment for cryptococcal meningitis in resource-limited countries, although this regimen is much less effective. Another regimen that has improved survival in trials is flucytosine with fluconazole for two weeks. However, flucytosine is very expensive and is not licensed in most sub-Saharan African countries. Stakeholders in developing countries badly need guidance, therefore, on which induction treatment for cryptococcal meningitis they should recommend to optimize outcomes in their particular countries. In this cost-effectiveness analysis (a study that compares the costs and health effects of different interventions), the researchers use costs in Uganda to estimate the survival, cost, and cost per benefit associated with various induction treatments for cryptococcal meningitis in HIV-infected patients.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers calculated the overall cost of six induction treatments using 2012 healthcare costs in Uganda for medications, supplies, and hospital care, and average laboratory costs for monitoring treatment from three African countries. They used data from published trials of cryptococcal meningitis treatment in resource-limited areas to estimate ten-week and one-year survival, life expectancy, and quality-adjusted life years (QALYs, the number of years of life added by an intervention, adjusted for the quality of life) for each intervention. Finally, they calculated the cost-effectiveness ratio (cost per QALY gained) and the incremental cost effectiveness ratio (ICER, the additional cost of a treatment strategy compared to fluconazole monotherapy divided by the incremental improvement in QALYs) for each intervention. The estimated costs per person for each induction treatment strategy ranged from US$154 for 14 days of fluconazole monotherapy to US$467 for 14 days of amphotericin plus flucytosine. Estimated average one-year survival was lowest for fluconazole (40%) and highest for short-course (seven days) amphotericin plus 14 days of fluconazole (66%), similar to other amphotericin-based treatments. Cost-effectiveness ratios ranged from US$20 per QALY for short-course amphotericin plus fluconazole to US$44 per QALY for 14 days of amphotericin plus flucytosine. Short-course amphotericin plus fluconazole had the lowest ICER (US$15.11 per additional QALY over fluconazole monotherapy).
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that, among the treatments investigated, a seven-day course of amphotericin with high-dose fluconazole for at least two weeks is the most cost-effective induction treatment for cryptococcal meningitis in Uganda. Although this result should be generalizable to other African countries, it needs to be treated with caution because very few trials have actually looked at the clinical effectiveness of this particular regimen. While short short-course amphotericin appears to be substantially more effective than fluconazole monotherapy, large-scale trials comparing short-course amphotericin regimens with more traditional 14-day regimens in resource-limited countries must be undertaken before short-course amphotericin-based treatments are adopted. Notably, however, if these trials confirm that survival with short-course amphotericin with fluconazole is about 30% better than with fluconazole alone, the researchers calculate that moving to short-course amphotericin could save about 150,000 lives every year in sub-Saharan Africa at a cost of US$220 per life saved.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at
This study is further discussed in a PLOS Medicine Perspective by Andrew Farlow provides a clearinghouse for updated guidelines for cryptococcal diagnosis and treatment.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information on Cryptococcus neoformans and a training manual called the Cryptococcal Screening Program Training Manual for Healthcare Providers
NAM/aidsmap provides information about all aspects of infection with Cryptococcus neoformans, including a personal story about cryptococcal meningitis
AIDS InfoNet has a fact sheet on cryptococcal meningitis (in several languages)
The not-for-profit organization Project Inform, which provides information, inspiration, and advocacy for people with HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C (in English and Spanish), has a fact sheet on cryptococcal meningitis
The MedlinePlus encyclopedia has a page on cryptococcal meningitis (in English and Spanish)
PMCID: PMC3463510  PMID: 23055838
7.  Nanomedicines in the treatment of acromegaly: focus on pegvisomant 
This article examines the role of pegvisomant in the treatment of acromegaly. This syndrome, caused by excessive growth hormone (GH) secretion by a pituitary adenoma, is associated with a doubled mortality rate and poor quality of life. Pituitary microsurgery has long been the first choice of treatment since it cures many patients, especially those with localized tumors. Adjuvant irradiation was given if insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I) or GH did not normalize. The introduction of long-acting slow- release somatostatin analogs was a breakthrough for adjuvant treatment, although not always effective. Rather, targeting excessive GH production, muting the GH signal at its receptor, was a totally different approach. The development of GH antagonists (by mutation of glycine at position 120) and other modifications to enhance receptor binding, and subsequent pegylation of the molecule led to the development of B2036. After pegylation of B2036 at 5 positions the distribution volume is restricted and its serum half-life considerably increased. In short-term clinical studies performed in selected, mostly pretreated, acromegalic patients, IGF-I normalized in the majority of cases. Combination therapy with long-acting somatostatin analogs and weekly rather than daily pegvisomant injections appears to be successful in one clinical study and might limit the high cost of pegvisomant. Long-term efficacy and safety has to be demonstrated. The drug does not cross the blood–brain barrier, and whether it distributes freely into the extracellular space of other organs than the liver has not been investigated, which might have implications for persistent local IGF-I production under unrestrained GH concentrations.
PMCID: PMC2676637  PMID: 17722273
pegvisomant; Somavert; receptor antagonist; growth hormone; insulin-like growth factor-I; treatment
8.  Efficacy and tolerability of peg-only laxative on faecal impaction and chronic constipation in children. A controlled double blind randomized study vs a standard peg-electrolyte laxative 
BMC Pediatrics  2012;12:178.
PEG-based laxatives are considered today the gold standard for the treatment of constipation in children. PEG formulations differ in terms of composition of inactive ingredients which may have an impact on acceptance, compliance and adherence to treatment. We therefore compared the efficacy, tolerability, acceptance and compliance of a new PEG-only formulation compared to a reference PEG-electrolyte (PEG-EL) formulation in resolving faecal impaction and in the treatment of chronic constipation.
Children aged 2–16 years with functional chronic constipation for at least 2 months were randomized to receive PEG-only 0.7 g/kg/day in 2 divided doses or 6.9 g PEG-EL 1–4 sachets according to age for 4 weeks. Children with faecal impaction were randomized to receive PEG-only 1.5/g/kg in 2 divided doses until resolution or for 6 days or PEG-EL with an initial dose of 4 sachets and increasing 2 sachets a day until resolution or for 7 days.
Ninety-six children were randomized into the study. Five patients withdrew consent before starting treatment. Three children discontinued treatment for refusal due to bad taste of the product (1 PEG-only, 2 PEG-EL); 1 (PEG-EL) for an adverse effect (abdominal pain). Intent-to-treat analysis was carried out in 49 children in the PEG-only group and 42 in the PEG-EL group.
No significant differences were observed between the two treatment groups at baseline.
Adequate relief of constipation in terms of normalized frequency and painless defecation of soft stools was achieved in all patients in both groups. The number of stools/week was 9.2 ± 3.2 (mean ± SD) in the PEG-only group and 7.8 ± 2.4 in the PEG-EL group (p = 0.025); the number of days with stool was 22.4 ± 5.1 in the PEG-only group and 19.6 ± 7.2 in the PEG-EL group (p = 0.034).
In the PEG-only group faecaloma resolution was observed in 5 children on the second day and in 2 children on the third day, while in the PEG-EL group it was observed in 2 children on the second day, in 3 children on the third day and in 1 child on the fifth day.
Only 2 patients reported mild treatment-related adverse events: 1 child in the PEG-only group had diarrhoea and vomiting and 1 child in the PEG-EL group had abdominal pain requiring treatment discontinuation. The PEG-only preparation was better tolerated as shown by the lower frequency of nausea than in the PEG-EL group.
In the PEG-only group, 96% of patients did not demonstrate any difficulties associated with treatment, as compared with 52% of patients in the PEG-EL group (p < 0.001). Also, the PEG-only formulation taste was better than that of PEG-EL (p < 0.001). The difference between the percentage of subjects who took > 80% of the prescribed dose was in favour of the PEG-only group (98% vs. 88%), though it did not reach a conventional statistical level (p = 0.062).
PEG-only was better tolerated and accepted than PEG-EL in children with chronic constipation. At the higher PEG doses recommended by the manufactures children in the PEG-only group had higher and more regular soft stool frequency than PEG-EL.
Trial registration NCT01592734
PMCID: PMC3511173  PMID: 23152962
Constipation; Laxatives; Children; Polyethylene glycol; Macrogol
9.  Cost-Effectiveness of Interventions for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) Using an Ontario Policy Model 
Executive Summary
In July 2010, the Medical Advisory Secretariat (MAS) began work on a Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) evidentiary framework, an evidence-based review of the literature surrounding treatment strategies for patients with COPD. This project emerged from a request by the Health System Strategy Division of the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care that MAS provide them with an evidentiary platform on the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of COPD interventions.
After an initial review of health technology assessments and systematic reviews of COPD literature, and consultation with experts, MAS identified the following topics for analysis: vaccinations (influenza and pneumococcal), smoking cessation, multidisciplinary care, pulmonary rehabilitation, long-term oxygen therapy, noninvasive positive pressure ventilation for acute and chronic respiratory failure, hospital-at-home for acute exacerbations of COPD, and telehealth (including telemonitoring and telephone support). Evidence-based analyses were prepared for each of these topics. For each technology, an economic analysis was also completed where appropriate. In addition, a review of the qualitative literature on patient, caregiver, and provider perspectives on living and dying with COPD was conducted, as were reviews of the qualitative literature on each of the technologies included in these analyses.
The Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Mega-Analysis series is made up of the following reports, which can be publicly accessed at the MAS website at:
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) Evidentiary Framework
Influenza and Pneumococcal Vaccinations for Patients With Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Smoking Cessation for Patients With Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Community-Based Multidisciplinary Care for Patients With Stable Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Pulmonary Rehabilitation for Patients With Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Long-Term Oxygen Therapy for Patients With Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Noninvasive Positive Pressure Ventilation for Acute Respiratory Failure Patients With Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Noninvasive Positive Pressure Ventilation for Chronic Respiratory Failure Patients With Stable Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Hospital-at-Home Programs for Patients With Acute Exacerbations of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Home Telehealth for Patients With Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Cost-Effectiveness of Interventions for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Using an Ontario Policy Model
Experiences of Living and Dying With COPD: A Systematic Review and Synthesis of the Qualitative Empirical Literature
For more information on the qualitative review, please contact Mita Giacomini at:
For more information on the economic analysis, please visit the PATH website:
The Toronto Health Economics and Technology Assessment (THETA) collaborative has produced an associated report on patient preference for mechanical ventilation. For more information, please visit the THETA website:
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is characterized by chronic inflammation throughout the airways, parenchyma, and pulmonary vasculature. The inflammation causes repeated cycles of injury and repair in the airway wall— inflammatory cells release a variety of chemicals and lead to cellular damage. The inflammation process also contributes to the loss of elastic recoil pressure in the lung, thereby reducing the driving pressure for expiratory flow through narrowed and poorly supported airways, in which airflow resistance is significantly increased. Expiratory flow limitation is the pathophysiological hallmark of COPD.
Exacerbations of COPD contribute considerably to morbidity and mortality, and impose a burden on the health care system. They are a leading cause of emergency room visits and hospitalizations, particularly in the winter. In Canada, the reported average cost for treating a moderate exacerbation is $641; for a major exacerbation, the cost is $10,086.
The objective of this study was to evaluate the cost-effectiveness and budget impact of the following interventions in moderate to very severe COPD, investigated in the Medical Advisory Secretariat Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Mega-Analysis Series:
smoking cessation programs in moderate COPD in an outpatient setting:
– intensive counselling (IC) versus usual care (UC)
– nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) versus UC
– IC + NRT versus placebo
– bupropion versus placebo
multidisciplinary care (MDC) teams versus UC in moderate to severe COPD in an outpatient setting
pulmonary rehabilitation (PR) versus UC following acute exacerbations in moderate to severe COPD
long-term oxygen therapy (LTOT) versus UC in severe hypoxemia in COPD in an outpatient setting
– noninvasive positive pressure ventilation (NPPV) + usual medical care versus usual medical care in acute respiratory failure due to an acute exacerbation in severe COPD in an inpatient setting
– weaning with NPPV versus weaning with invasive mechanical ventilation in acute respiratory failure due to an acute exacerbation in very severe COPD in an inpatient setting
A cost-utility analysis was conducted using a Markov probabilistic model. The model consists of different health states based on the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease COPD severity classification. Patients were assigned different costs and utilities depending on their severity health state during each model cycle. In addition to moving between health states, patients were at risk of acute exacerbations of COPD in each model cycle. During each cycle, patients could have no acute exacerbation, a minor acute exacerbation, or a major exacerbation. For the purposes of the model, a major exacerbation was defined as one that required hospitalization. Patients were assigned different costs and utilities in each model cycle, depending on whether they experienced an exacerbation, and its severity.
Starting cohorts reflected the various patient populations from the trials analyzed. Incremental cost-effectiveness ratios (ICERs)—that is, costs per quality-adjusted life-year (QALY)—were estimated for each intervention using clinical parameters and summary estimates of relative risks of (re)hospitalization, as well as mortality and abstinence rates, from the COPD mega-analysis evidence-based analyses.
A budget impact analysis was also conducted to project incremental costs already being incurred or resources already in use in Ontario. Using provincial data, medical literature, and expert opinion, health system impacts were calculated for the strategies investigated.
All costs are reported in Canadian dollars.
All smoking cessation programs were dominant (i.e., less expensive and more effective overall). Assuming a base case cost of $1,041 and $1,527 per patient for MDC and PR, the ICER was calculated to be $14,123 per QALY and $17,938 per QALY, respectively. When the costs of MDC and PR were varied in a 1-way sensitivity analysis to reflect variation in resource utilization reported in the literature, the ICER increased to $55,322 per QALY and $56,270 per QALY, respectively. Assuming a base case cost of $2,261 per year per patient for LTOT as reported by data from the Ontario provincial program, the ICER was calculated to be $38,993 per QALY. Ventilation strategies were dominant (i.e., cheaper and more effective), as reflected by the clinical evidence of significant in-hospital days avoided in the study group.
Ontario currently pays for IC through physician billing (translating to a current burden of $8 million) and bupropion through the Ontario Drug Benefit program (translating to a current burden of almost $2 million). The burden of NRT was projected to be $10 million, with future expenditures of up to $1 million in Years 1 to 3 for incident cases.
Ontario currently pays for some chronic disease management programs. Based on the most recent Family Health Team data, the costs of MDC programs to manage COPD were estimated at $85 million in fiscal year 2010, with projected future expenditures of up to $51 million for incident cases, assuming the base case cost of the program. However, this estimate does not accurately reflect the current costs to the province because of lack of report by Family Health Teams, lack of capture of programs outside this model of care by any data set in the province, and because the resource utilization and frequency of visits/follow-up phone calls were based on the findings in the literature rather than the actual Family Health Team COPD management programs in place in Ontario. Therefore, MDC resources being utilized in the province are unknown and difficult to measure.
Data on COPD-related hospitalizations were pulled from Ontario administrative data sets and based on consultation with experts. Half of hospitalized patients will access PR resources at least once, and half of these will repeat the therapy, translating to a potential burden of $17 million to $32 million, depending on the cost of the program. These resources are currently being absorbed, but since utilization is not being captured by any data set in the province, it is difficult to quantify and estimate. Provincial programs may be under-resourced, and patients may not be accessing these services effectively.
Data from the LTOT provincial program (based on fiscal year 2006 information) suggested that the burden was $65 million, with potential expenditures of up to $0.2 million in Years 1 to 3 for incident cases.
From the clinical evidence on ventilation (i.e., reduction in length of stay in hospital), there were potential cost savings to the hospitals of $42 million and $12 million for NPPV and weaning with NPPV, respectively, if the study intervention were adopted. Future cost savings were projected to be up to $4 million and $1 million, respectively, for incident cases.
Currently, costs for most of these interventions are being absorbed by provider services, the Ontario Drug Benefit Program, the Assistive Devices Program, and the hospital global budget. The most cost-effective intervention for COPD will depend on decision-makers’ willingness to pay. Lack of provincial data sets capturing resource utilization for the various interventions poses a challenge for estimating current burden and future expenditures.
PMCID: PMC3384363  PMID: 23074422
10.  KRAS Testing for Anti-EGFR Therapy in Advanced Colorectal Cancer 
Executive Summary
In February 2010, the Medical Advisory Secretariat (MAS) began work on evidence-based reviews of the literature surrounding three pharmacogenomic tests. This project came about when Cancer Care Ontario (CCO) asked MAS to provide evidence-based analyses on the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of three oncology pharmacogenomic tests currently in use in Ontario.
Evidence-based analyses have been prepared for each of these technologies. These have been completed in conjunction with internal and external stakeholders, including a Provincial Expert Panel on Pharmacogenomics (PEPP). Within the PEPP, subgroup committees were developed for each disease area. For each technology, an economic analysis was also completed by the Toronto Health Economics and Technology Assessment Collaborative (THETA) and is summarized within the reports.
The following reports can be publicly accessed at the MAS website at: or at
Gene Expression Profiling for Guiding Adjuvant Chemotherapy Decisions in Women with Early Breast Cancer: An Evidence-Based and Economic Analysis
Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor Mutation (EGFR) Testing for Prediction of Response to EGFR-Targeting Tyrosine Kinase Inhibitor (TKI) Drugs in Patients with Advanced Non-Small-Cell Lung Cancer: an Evidence-Based and Economic Analysis
K-RAS testing in Treatment Decisions for Advanced Colorectal Cancer: an Evidence-Based and Economic Analysis.
The objective of this systematic review is to determine the predictive value of KRAS testing in the treatment of metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC) with two anti-EGFR agents, cetuximab and panitumumab. Economic analyses are also being conducted to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of KRAS testing.
Clinical Need: Condition and Target Population
Metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC) is usually defined as stage IV disease according to the American Joint Committee on Cancer tumour node metastasis (TNM) system or stage D in the Duke’s classification system. Patients with advanced colorectal cancer (mCRC) either present with metastatic disease or develop it through disease progression.
KRAS (Kristen-RAS, a member of the rat sarcoma virus (ras) gene family of oncogenes) is frequently mutated in epithelial cancers such as colorectal cancer, with mutations occurring in mutational hotspots (codons 12 and 13) of the KRAS protein. Involved in EGFR-mediated signalling of cellular processes such as cell proliferation, resistance to apoptosis, enhanced cell motility and neoangiogenesis, a mutation in the KRAS gene is believed to be involved in cancer pathogenesis. Such a mutation is also hypothesized to be involved in resistance to targeted anti-EGFR (epidermal growth factor receptor with tyrosine kinase activity) treatments such as cetuximab and panitumumab, hence, the important in evaluating the evidence on the predictive value of KRAS testing in this context.
KRAS Mutation Testing in Advanced Colorectal Cancer
Both cetuximab and panitumumab are indicated by Health Canada in the treatment of patients with metastatic colorectal cancer whose tumours are WT for the KRAS gene. Cetuximab may be offered as monotherapy in patients intolerant to irinotecan-based chemotherapy or in patients who have failed both irinotecan and oxaliplatin-based regimens and who received a fluoropyrimidine. It can also be administered in combination with irinotecan in patients refractory to other irinotecan-based chemotherapy regimens. Panitumumab is only indicated as a single agent after failure of fluoropyrimidine-, oxaliplatin-, and irinotecan-containing chemotherapy regimens.
In Ontario, patients with advanced colorectal cancer who are refractory to chemotherapy may be offered the targeted anti-EGFR treatments cetuximab or panitumumab. Eligibility for these treatments is based on the KRAS status of their tumour, derived from tissue collected from surgical or biopsy specimens. It is believed that KRAS status is not affected by treatments, therefore, for patients for whom surgical tissue is available for KRAS testing, additional biopsies prior to treatment with these targeted agents is not necessary. For patients that have not undergone surgery or for whom surgical tissue is not available, a biopsy of either the primary or metastatic site is required to determine their KRAS status. This is possible as status at the metastatic and primary tumour sites is considered to be similar.
Research Question
To determine if there is predictive value of KRAS testing in guiding treatment decisions with anti-EGFR targeted therapies in advanced colorectal cancer patients refractory to chemotherapy.
Research Methods
Literature Search
The Medical Advisory Secretariat followed its standard procedures and on May 18, 2010, searched the following electronic databases: Ovid MEDLINE, EMBASE, Ovid MEDLINE In-Process & Other Non-Indexed Citations, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews and The International Network of Agencies for Health Technology Assessment database.
The subject headings and keywords searched included colorectal cancer, cetuximab, panitumumab, and KRAS testing. The search was further restricted to English-language articles published between January 1, 2009 and May 18, 2010 resulting in 1335 articles for review. Excluded were case reports, comments, editorials, nonsystematic reviews, and letters. Studies published from January 1, 2005 to December 31, 2008 were identified in a health technology assessment conducted by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), published in 2010. In total, 14 observational studies were identified for inclusion in this EBA: 4 for cetuximab monotherapy, 7 for the cetuximab-irinotecan combination therapy, and 3 to be included in the review for panitumumab monotherapy
Inclusion Criteria
English-language articles, and English or French-language HTAs published from January 2005 to May 2010, inclusive.
Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) or observational studies, including single arm treatment studies that include KRAS testing.
Studies with data on main outcomes of interest, overall and progression-free survival.
Studies of third line treatment with cetuximab or panitumumab in patients with advanced colorectal cancer refractory to chemotherapy.
For the cetuximab-irinotecan evaluation, studies in which at least 70% of patients in the study received this combination therapy.
Exclusion Criteria
Studies whose entire sample was included in subsequent publications which have been included in this EBA.
Studies in pediatric populations.
Case reports, comments, editorials, or letters.
Outcomes of Interest
Overall survival (OS), median
Progression-free-survival (PFS), median.
Response rates.
Adverse event rates.
Quality of life (QOL).
Summary of Findings of Systematic Review
Cetuximab or Panitumumab Monotherapy
Based on moderate GRADE observational evidence, there is improvement in PFS and OS favouring patients without the KRAS mutation (KRAS wildtype, or KRAS WT) compared to those with the mutation.
Cetuximab-Irinotecan Combination Therapy
There is low GRADE evidence that testing for KRAS may optimize survival benefits in patients without the KRAS mutation (KRAS wildtype, or KRAS WT) compared to those with the mutation.
However, cetuximab-irinotecan combination treatments based on KRAS status discount any effect of cetuximab in possibly reversing resistance to irinotecan in patients with the mutation, as observed effects were lower than for patients without the mutation. Clinical experts have raised concerns about the biological plausibility of this observation and this conclusion would, therefore, be regarded as hypothesis generating.
Economic Analysis
Cost-effectiveness and budget impact analyses were conducted incorporating estimates of effectiveness from this systematic review. Evaluation of relative cost-effectiveness, based on a decision-analytic cost-utility analysis, assessed testing for KRAS genetic mutations versus no testing in the context of treatment with cetuximab monotherapy, panitumumab monotherapy, cetuximab in combination with irinotecan, and best supportive care.
Of importance to note is that the cost-effectiveness analysis focused on the impact of testing for KRAS mutations compared to no testing in the context of different treatment options, and does not assess the cost-effectiveness of the drug treatments alone.
KRAS status is predictive of outcomes in cetuximab and panitumumab monotherapy, and in cetuximab-irinotecan combination therapy.
While KRAS testing is cost-effective for all strategies considered, it is not equally cost-effective for all treatment options.
PMCID: PMC3377508  PMID: 23074403
11.  Percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy in children 
Korean Journal of Pediatrics  2011;54(1):17-21.
Percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy (PEG) can improve nutritional status and reduce the amount of time needed to feed neurologically impaired children. We evaluated the characteristics, complications, and outcomes of neurologically impaired children treated with PEG.
We retrospectively reviewed the records of 32 neurologically impaired children who underwent PEG between March 2002 and August 2008 at our medical center. Forty-two PEG procedures comprising 32 PEG insertions and 10 PEG exchanges, were performed. The mean follow-up time was 12.2 (6.6) months.
Mean patient age was 9.4 (4.5) years. The main indications for PEG insertion were swallowing difficulty with GI bleeding due to nasogastric tube placement and/or the presence of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). The overall rate of complications was 47%, with early complications evident in 25% of patients and late complications in 22%. The late complications included one gastro-colic fistula, two cases of aggravated GERD, and four instances of wound infection. Among the 15 patients with histological evidence of GERD before PEG, 13 (87%) had less severe GERD, experienced no new aspiration events, and showed increased body weight after PEG treatment.
PEG is a safe, effective, and relatively simple technique affording long-term enteral nutritional support in neurologically impaired children. Following PEG treatment, the body weight of most patients increased and the levels of vomiting, GI bleeding, and aspiration fell. We suggest that PEG with post-procedural observation be considered for enteral nutritional support of neurologically impaired children.
PMCID: PMC3040361  PMID: 21359056
Gastrostomy; Child; Complication; Gastroesophageal reflux disease
12.  Screening and Rapid Molecular Diagnosis of Tuberculosis in Prisons in Russia and Eastern Europe: A Cost-Effectiveness Analysis 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(11):e1001348.
Daniel Winetsky and colleagues investigate eight strategies for screening and diagnosis of tuberculosis within prisons of the former Soviet Union.
Prisons of the former Soviet Union (FSU) have high rates of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) and are thought to drive general population tuberculosis (TB) epidemics. Effective prison case detection, though employing more expensive technologies, may reduce long-term treatment costs and slow MDR-TB transmission.
Methods and Findings
We developed a dynamic transmission model of TB and drug resistance matched to the epidemiology and costs in FSU prisons. We evaluated eight strategies for TB screening and diagnosis involving, alone or in combination, self-referral, symptom screening, mass miniature radiography (MMR), and sputum PCR with probes for rifampin resistance (Xpert MTB/RIF). Over a 10-y horizon, we projected costs, quality-adjusted life years (QALYs), and TB and MDR-TB prevalence. Using sputum PCR as an annual primary screening tool among the general prison population most effectively reduced overall TB prevalence (from 2.78% to 2.31%) and MDR-TB prevalence (from 0.74% to 0.63%), and cost US$543/QALY for additional QALYs gained compared to MMR screening with sputum PCR reserved for rapid detection of MDR-TB. Adding sputum PCR to the currently used strategy of annual MMR screening was cost-saving over 10 y compared to MMR screening alone, but produced only a modest reduction in MDR-TB prevalence (from 0.74% to 0.69%) and had minimal effect on overall TB prevalence (from 2.78% to 2.74%). Strategies based on symptom screening alone were less effective and more expensive than MMR-based strategies. Study limitations included scarce primary TB time-series data in FSU prisons and uncertainties regarding screening test characteristics.
In prisons of the FSU, annual screening of the general inmate population with sputum PCR most effectively reduces TB and MDR-TB prevalence, doing so cost-effectively. If this approach is not feasible, the current strategy of annual MMR is both more effective and less expensive than strategies using self-referral or symptom screening alone, and the addition of sputum PCR for rapid MDR-TB detection may be cost-saving over time.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Tuberculosis (TB)—a contagious bacterial disease—is a major public health problem, particularly in low- and middle-income countries. In 2010, about nine million people developed TB, and about 1.5 million people died from the disease. Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacterium that causes TB, is spread in airborne droplets when people with active disease cough or sneeze. The characteristic symptoms of TB include fever, a persistent cough, and night sweats. Diagnostic tests include sputum smear microscopy (examination of mucus from the lungs for M. tuberculosis bacilli), mycobacterial culture (growth of M. tuberculosis from sputum), and chest X-rays. TB can also be diagnosed by looking for fragments of the M. tuberculosis genetic blueprint in sputum samples (sputum PCR). Importantly, sputum PCR can detect the genetic changes that make M. tuberculosis resistant to rifampicin, a constituent of the cocktail of antibiotics that is used to cure TB. Rifampicin resistance is an indicator of multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB), the emergence of which is thwarting ongoing global efforts to control TB.
Why Was This Study Done?
Prisons present unique challenges for TB control. Overcrowding, poor ventilation, and inadequate medical care increase the spread of TB among prisoners, who often come from disadvantaged populations where the prevalence of TB (the proportion of the population with TB) is already high. Prisons also act as reservoirs for TB, recycling the disease back into the civilian population. The prisons of the former Soviet Union, for example, which have extremely high rates of MDR-TB, are thought to drive TB epidemics in the general population. Because effective identification of active TB among prison inmates has the potential to improve TB control outside prisons, the World Health Organization recommends active TB case finding among prisoners using self-referral, screening with symptom questionnaires, or screening with chest X-rays or mass miniature radiography (MMR). But which of these strategies will reduce the prevalence of TB in prisons most effectively, and which is most cost-effective? Here, the researchers evaluate the relative effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of alternative strategies for screening and diagnosis of TB in prisons by modeling TB and MDR-TB epidemics in prisons of the former Soviet Union.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers used a dynamic transmission model of TB that simulates the movement of individuals in prisons in the former Soviet Union through different stages of TB infection to estimate the costs, quality-adjusted life years (QALYs; a measure of disease burden that includes both the quantity and quality of life) saved, and TB and MDR-TB prevalence for eight TB screening/diagnostic strategies over a ten-year period. Compared to annual MMR alone (the current strategy), annual screening with sputum PCR produced the greatest reduction in the prevalence of TB and of MDR-TB among the prison population. Adding sputum PCR for detection of MDR-TB to annual MMR screening did not affect the overall TB prevalence but slightly reduced the MDR-TB prevalence and saved nearly US$2,000 over ten years per model prison of 1,000 inmates, compared to MMR screening alone. Annual sputum PCR was the most cost-effective strategy, costing US$543/QALY for additional QALYs gained compared to MMR screening plus sputum PCR for MDR-TB detection. Other strategies tested, including symptom screening alone or combined with sputum PCR, were either more expensive and less effective or less cost-effective than these two options.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that, in prisons in the former Soviet Union, annual screening with sputum PCR will most effectively reduce TB and MDR-TB prevalence and will be cost-effective. That is, the cost per QALY saved of this strategy is less than the per-capita gross domestic product of any of the former Soviet Union countries. The paucity of primary data on some facets of TB epidemiology in prisons in the former Soviet Union and the assumptions built into the mathematical model limit the accuracy of these findings. Moreover, because most of the benefits of sputum PCR screening come from treating the MDR-TB cases that are detected using this screening approach, these findings cannot be generalized to prison settings without a functioning MDR-TB treatment program or with a very low MDR-TB prevalence. Despite these and other limitations, these findings provide valuable information about the screening strategies that are most likely to interrupt the TB cycle in prisons, thereby saving resources and averting preventable deaths both inside and outside prisons.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at
The World Health Organization provides information (in several languages) on all aspects of tuberculosis, including general information on tuberculosis diagnostics and on tuberculosis in prisons; a report published in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization in 2006 describes tough measures taken in Russian prisons to slow the spread of TB
The Stop TB Partnership is working towards tuberculosis elimination; patient stories about tuberculosis are available (in English and Spanish)
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has information about tuberculosis, about its diagnosis, and about tuberculosis in prisons (some information in English and Spanish)
A PLOS Medicine Research Article by Iacapo Baussano et al. describes a systematic review of tuberculosis incidence in prisons; a linked editorial entitled The Health Crisis of Tuberculosis in Prisons Extends beyond the Prison Walls is also available
The Tuberculosis Survival Project, which aims to raise awareness of tuberculosis and provide support for people with tuberculosis, provides personal stories about treatment for tuberculosis; the Tuberculosis Vaccine Initiative also provides personal stories about dealing with tuberculosis
MedlinePlus has links to further information about tuberculosis (in English and Spanish)
PMCID: PMC3507963  PMID: 23209384
13.  Cost-Effectiveness of Interventions to Prevent and Control Diabetes Mellitus: A Systematic Review 
Diabetes Care  2010;33(8):1872-1894.
To synthesize the cost-effectiveness (CE) of interventions to prevent and control diabetes, its complications, and comorbidities.
We conducted a systematic review of literature on the CE of diabetes interventions recommended by the American Diabetes Association (ADA) and published between January 1985 and May 2008. We categorized the strength of evidence about the CE of an intervention as strong, supportive, or uncertain. CEs were classified as cost saving (more health benefit at a lower cost), very cost-effective (≤$25,000 per life year gained [LYG] or quality-adjusted life year [QALY]), cost-effective ($25,001 to $50,000 per LYG or QALY), marginally cost-effective ($50,001 to $100,000 per LYG or QALY), or not cost-effective (>$100,000 per LYG or QALY). The CE classification of an intervention was reported separately by country setting (U.S. or other developed countries) if CE varied by where the intervention was implemented. Costs were measured in 2007 U.S. dollars.
Fifty-six studies from 20 countries met the inclusion criteria. A large majority of the ADA recommended interventions are cost-effective. We found strong evidence to classify the following interventions as cost saving or very cost-effective: (I) Cost saving— 1) ACE inhibitor (ACEI) therapy for intensive hypertension control compared with standard hypertension control; 2) ACEI or angiotensin receptor blocker (ARB) therapy to prevent end-stage renal disease (ESRD) compared with no ACEI or ARB treatment; 3) early irbesartan therapy (at the microalbuminuria stage) to prevent ESRD compared with later treatment (at the macroalbuminuria stage); 4) comprehensive foot care to prevent ulcers compared with usual care; 5) multi-component interventions for diabetic risk factor control and early detection of complications compared with conventional insulin therapy for persons with type 1 diabetes; and 6) multi-component interventions for diabetic risk factor control and early detection of complications compared with standard glycemic control for persons with type 2 diabetes. (II) Very cost-effective— 1) intensive lifestyle interventions to prevent type 2 diabetes among persons with impaired glucose tolerance compared with standard lifestyle recommendations; 2) universal opportunistic screening for undiagnosed type 2 diabetes in African Americans between 45 and 54 years old; 3) intensive glycemic control as implemented in the UK Prospective Diabetes Study in persons with newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes compared with conventional glycemic control; 4) statin therapy for secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease compared with no statin therapy; 5) counseling and treatment for smoking cessation compared with no counseling and treatment; 6) annual screening for diabetic retinopathy and ensuing treatment in persons with type 1 diabetes compared with no screening; 7) annual screening for diabetic retinopathy and ensuing treatment in persons with type 2 diabetes compared with no screening; and 8) immediate vitrectomy to treat diabetic retinopathy compared with deferred vitrectomy.
Many interventions intended to prevent/control diabetes are cost saving or very cost-effective and supported by strong evidence. Policy makers should consider giving these interventions a higher priority.
PMCID: PMC2909081  PMID: 20668156
14.  Neurocognitive Function in Acromegaly after Surgical Resection of GH-Secreting Adenoma versus Naïve Acromegaly 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(4):e60041.
Patients with active untreated acromegaly show mild to moderate neurocognitive disorders that are associated to chronic exposure to growth hormone (GH) and insulin-like growth factor (IGF-I) hypersecretion. However, it is unknown whether these disorders improve after controlling GH/IGF-I hypersecretion. The aim of this study was to compare neurocognitive functions of patients who successfully underwent GH-secreting adenoma transsphenoidal surgery (cured patients) with patients with naive acromegaly. In addition, we wanted to determine the impact of different clinical and biochemical variables on neurocognitive status in patients with active disease and after long-term cure. A battery of six standardized neuropsychological tests assessed attention, memory and executive functioning. In addition, a quantitative electroencephalography with Low-Resolution Electromagnetic Tomography (LORETA) solution was performed to obtain information about the neurophysiological state of the patients. Neurocognitive data was compared to that of a healthy control group. Multiple linear regression analysis was also conducted using clinical and hormonal parameters to obtain a set of independent predictors of neurocognitive state before and after cure. Both groups of patients scored significantly poorer than the healthy controls on memory tests, especially those assessing visual and verbal recall. Patients with cured acromegaly did not obtain better cognitive measures than naïve patients. Furthermore memory deficits were associated with decreased beta activity in left medial temporal cortex in both groups of patients. Regression analysis showed longer duration of untreated acromegaly was associated with more severe neurocognitive complications, regardless of the diagnostic group, whereas GH levels at the time of assessment was related to neurocognitive outcome only in naïve patients. Longer duration of post-operative biochemical remission of acromegaly was associated with better neurocognitive state. Overall, this data suggests that the effects of chronic exposure to GH/IGF-I hypersecretion could have long-term effects on brain functions.
PMCID: PMC3617159  PMID: 23593161
15.  Control of IGF-I levels with titrated dosing of lanreotide Autogel over 48 weeks in patients with acromegaly 
Clinical Endocrinology  2008;69(2):299-305.
An essential criterion for control of acromegaly is normalization of IGF-I levels. Somatostatin analogues act to suppress IGF-I and GH levels.
To assess the efficacy and safety of 48 weeks titrated dosing of lanreotide Autogel.
Open-label, multicentre, phase III, 48-week trial.
Patients with active acromegaly (IGF-I levels > 1·3 times upper limit of age-adjusted normal range) were recruited. Twelve injections of lanreotide Autogel were given at 28-day intervals: during the 16-week fixed-dose phase, patients received 90 mg; in the 32-week dose-titration phase, patients received 60, 90 or 120 mg according to GH and IGF-I levels. Intention-to-treat analysis was performed to determine the proportion of patients with normalized age-adjusted IGF-I levels at study end. Secondary evaluations included GH levels, clinical acromegaly signs and safety.
Fifty-seven of 63 patients completed the study. Lanreotide Autogel resulted in normalized age-adjusted IGF-I levels in 27 patients (43%, 95% CI 31–55). Mean GH levels decreased from 6·2 to 1·5 µg/l at study end, with 53 of 62 patients (85%) having GH levels ≤ 2·5 µg/l (95% CI 76·7–94·3) and 28 of 62 patients (45%) with levels < 1 µg/l (95% CI 32·8–57·6). Twenty-four (38%) had both normal IGF-I levels and GH levels ≤ 2·5 µg/l. Acromegaly symptoms reduced significantly in most patients throughout the study. The most common adverse events were gastrointestinal, as expected for somatostatin analogues.
Using IGF-I as primary end-point, 48 weeks lanreotide Autogel treatment, titrated for optimal hormonal control, controlled IGF-I and GH levels effectively, reduced acromegaly symptoms and was well tolerated.
PMCID: PMC2610402  PMID: 18248639
16.  Clinical and radiological evidence of the recurrence of reversible pegvisomant-related lipohypertrophy at the new site of injection in two women with acromegaly: a case series 
Pegvisomant-related lipohypertrophy may revert when changing the site of injection, but the lipohypertrophy may recur at the new site of injection. The strength of evidence, however, is weak and comes from information obtained from physical examination only.
Case presentation
We studied two Caucasian women with acromegaly, aged 51 and 71 years, with pegvisomant-related lipohypertrophy. Our two patients were evaluated at baseline, when the site of pegvisomant injection was the periumbilical abdominal region, and then four months after switching the injection site from the abdomen to both thighs. Both physical examination and radiological studies (magnetic resonance imaging and dual energy X-ray absorptiometry) demonstrated that the abdominal lipohypertrophy progressively reverted in both patients after switching the site of injection to the thighs. However, lipohypertrophy reappeared at the new site of injection. The radiological outcome confirmed the reversibility of pegvisomant-related lipohypertrophy and strengthened the body of evidence on this issue.
In clinical practice, physical examination of the injection site or sites leads to an early detection of lipohypertrophy during pegvisomant treatment. Radiological procedures may be of help to confirm subcutaneous fat changes and for a precise monitoring of fat redistribution. Patients should get appropriate information about lipohypertrophy before starting pegvisomant treatment since the rotation of the site of injection may prevent lipohypertrophy.
PMCID: PMC3398337  PMID: 22233881
17.  Clinical experience with nonstandard doses ofinterferon alfa-2b and ribavirin in the treatment of chronic hepatitis C infection: A retrospective analysis 
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is the most common blood-borne virus in the United States. Several mono- and combination therapies have been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of HCV, but their routes of administration, dosing approaches, eras of introduction, and actual use in clinical practice and resulting effectiveness have not yet been reported.
The aim of this article was to characterize clinical use and virologic response (VR) of the HCV treatments interferon alfa-2b plus ribavirin (IFN + RBV) and peginterferon alfa-2b plus ribavirin (peg-IFN + RBV).
This retrospective chart review of office-based practices in theUnited States was conducted at 200 physicians' offices across the United States. We collected data concerning dosing patterns, VR (HCV RNA load, ≤1000 IU/mL or “negative” on polymerase chain reaction qualitative analysis), and adverse events (AEs) from the medical records of a geographically diverse sample of patients receiving treatment for chronic HCV infection in the United States from July 2001 to June 2002. For efficacy assessment, factors that were statistically different at baseline were adjusted using logistic regression. Providers also reviewed the medical records for symptoms or signs consistent with HCV treatment-related AEs.
Data from the records of 675 patients (423 men, 252 women; mean [SD] age of 45.5 [8.2] years; mean [SD] body weight, 80.8 [19.4] kg) were analyzed. At baseline, the IFN + RBV treatment group (330 patients) had significantly higher percentages of black patients (22.1% vs 15.7%; P = 0.032) and patients with hepatic disease based on clinician-reported cirrhosis and liver dysfunction (18.8% vs 9.9%; P < 0.001), and a significantly lower percentage of white patients (60.3% vs 69.6%; P = 0.012) compared with the peg-IFN + RBV treatment group (345 patients). The difference in log-transformed baseline HCV RNA loads between the 2 treatment groups in this study was <1 log unit. A significantly higher percentage of IFN + RBV-treated patients compared with peg-IFN + RBV-treated patients were prescribed HCV therapy on diagnosis (37.3% vs 29.9%; P = 0.041), and the mean (SD) duration of treatment was significantly different between the 2 treatment groups (52.5 [37.0] vs 27.5 [15.0] weeks; P < 0.001). Peg-IFN + RBV was associated with a higher rate of VR compared with IFN + RBV on univariate analysis (28.5% vs 17.5%; P = 0.018). Recommended doses of peg-IFN and higher-than-recommended doses of RBV were associated with an increased likelihood of VR. Higher-than-recommended doses of peg-IFN without a concomitant increase in RBV was not associated with an increased likelihood of VR. The incidences of the 3 most commonly reported AEs in the IFN + RSV group were significantly higher compared with those in the peg-IFN + RSV group: fatigue, 217 (65.8%) versus 185 (53.6%) patients (P = 0.001); depression, 147 (44.5%) versus 120 (34.8%) (P = 0.009); and anxiety, 87 (26.4%) versus 64 (18.6%) (P = 0.014). Nausea, however, was reported in a significantly higher number of patients in the peg-IFN group compared with the IFN + RBV group (74 [21.4%] vs 51 [15.5%]; P = 0.045). The frequencies of dose modification and treatment discontinuation due to AEs were similar between the 2 treatments and were similar to or less than those reported in other studies.
In this retrospective data analysis of US office-based practicesconcerning HCV treatment, clinicians were observed to prescribe IFN + RBV at doses that differ from recommendations in the product information (PI), as well as prescribe the RBV component of peg-IFN + RBV at doses that differed from PI recommendations. Although patients treated with peg-IFN + RBV appeared to achieve higher VR compared with those treated with IFN + RBV in our analysis of data from clinical practice, peg-IFN + RBV was associated with lower VR rates compared with those reported in clinical studies.
PMCID: PMC4003805  PMID: 24790244
hepatitis C; pegylated interferon; interferon alfa-2b and ribavirin; ribavirin; dosing; outcomes
18.  Economic Appraisal of Ontario's Universal Influenza Immunization Program: A Cost-Utility Analysis 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(4):e1000256.
Beate Sander and colleagues assess the cost-effectiveness of the program that provides free seasonal influenza vaccines to the entire population of Ontario, Canada.
In July 2000, the province of Ontario, Canada, initiated a universal influenza immunization program (UIIP) to provide free seasonal influenza vaccines for the entire population. This is the first large-scale program of its kind worldwide. The objective of this study was to conduct an economic appraisal of Ontario's UIIP compared to a targeted influenza immunization program (TIIP).
Methods and Findings
A cost-utility analysis using Ontario health administrative data was performed. The study was informed by a companion ecological study comparing physician visits, emergency department visits, hospitalizations, and deaths between 1997 and 2004 in Ontario and nine other Canadian provinces offering targeted immunization programs. The relative change estimates from pre-2000 to post-2000 as observed in other provinces were applied to pre-UIIP Ontario event rates to calculate the expected number of events had Ontario continued to offer targeted immunization. Main outcome measures were quality-adjusted life years (QALYs), costs in 2006 Canadian dollars, and incremental cost-utility ratios (incremental cost per QALY gained). Program and other costs were drawn from Ontario sources. Utility weights were obtained from the literature. The incremental cost of the program per QALY gained was calculated from the health care payer perspective. Ontario's UIIP costs approximately twice as much as a targeted program but reduces influenza cases by 61% and mortality by 28%, saving an estimated 1,134 QALYs per season overall. Reducing influenza cases decreases health care services cost by 52%. Most cost savings can be attributed to hospitalizations avoided. The incremental cost-effectiveness ratio is Can$10,797/QALY gained. Results are most sensitive to immunization cost and number of deaths averted.
Universal immunization against seasonal influenza was estimated to be an economically attractive intervention.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Annual outbreaks (epidemics) of influenza—a viral disease of the nose, throat, and airways—make millions of people ill and kill about 500,000 individuals every year. In doing so, they impose a considerable economic burden on society in terms of health care costs and lost productivity. Influenza epidemics occur because small but frequent changes in the viral proteins to which the immune system responds mean that an immune response produced one year by exposure to an influenza virus provides only partial protection against influenza the next year. Annual immunization with a vaccine that contains killed influenza viruses of the major circulating strains can boost this natural immunity and greatly reduce a person's chances of catching influenza. Consequently, many countries run seasonal influenza vaccine programs. These programs usually target people at high risk of complications from influenza and individuals likely to come into close contact with them, and people who provide essential community services. So, for example, in most Canadian provinces, targeted influenza immunization programs (TIIPs) offer free influenza vaccinations to people aged 65 years or older, to people with chronic medical conditions, and to health care workers.
Why Was This Study Done?
Some experts argue, however, that universal vaccination might provide populations with better protection from influenza. In 2000, the province of Ontario in Canada decided, therefore, to introduce a universal influenza immunization program (UIIP) to provide free influenza vaccination to everyone older than 6 months, the first large program of this kind in the world. A study published in 2008 showed that, following the introduction of the UIIP, vaccination rates in Ontario increased more than in other Canadian provinces. In addition, deaths from influenza and influenza-related use of health care facilities decreased more in Ontario than in provinces that continued to offer a TIIP. But is universal influenza vaccination good value for money? In this study, the researchers evaluate the cost-effectiveness of the Ontario UIIP by comparing the health outcomes and costs associated with its introduction with the health outcomes and costs associated with a hypothetical continuation of targeted influenza immunization.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers used data on TIIP and UIIP vaccine uptake, physician visits, emergency department visits, hospitalizations for influenza, and deaths from influenza between 1997 and 2004 in Ontario and in nine Canadian states offering TIIPs, and Ontario cost data, in their “cost-utility” analysis. This type of analysis estimates the additional cost required to generate a year of perfect health (a quality-adjusted life-year or QALY) through the introduction of an intervention. QALYs are calculated by multiplying the time spent in a certain health state by a measure of the quality of that health state. The researchers report that the cost of Ontario's UIIP was about twice as much as the cost of a TIIP for the province. However, the introduction of the UIIP reduced the number of influenza cases by nearly two-thirds and reduced deaths from influenza by more than a quarter compared with what would have been expected had the province continued to offer a TIIP, an overall saving of 1,134 QALYs. Furthermore, the reduction in influenza cases halved influenza-related health care costs, mainly because of reductions in hospitalization. Overall, this means that the additional cost to Ontario of saving one QALY through the introduction of the UIIP was Can$10,797, an “incremental cost-effectiveness ratio” of $10,797 per QALY gained.
What Do These Findings Mean?
In Canada, an intervention is considered cost-effective from the point of view of a health care purchaser if it costs less than Canadian $50,000 to gain one QALY. These findings indicate, therefore, that for Ontario the introduction of the UIIP is economically attractive. Indeed, the researchers calculate that even if the costs of the UIIP were to double, the additional cost of saving one QALY by introducing universal immunization would remain below $50,000. Other “sensitivity” analyses undertaken by the researchers also indicate that universal immunization is likely to be effective and cost-effective in Ontario if other key assumptions and/or data included in the calculations are varied within reasonable limits. Given these findings, the researchers suggest that a UIIP might be an appealing intervention in other Canadian provinces and in other high-income countries where influenza transmission and health-care costs are broadly similar to those in Ontario.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
A PLoS Medicine Research Article by Kwong and colleagues describes how the introduction of universal influenza immunization in Ontario altered influenza-related health care use and deaths in the province
Wikipedia pages are available on QALYs and on cost-utility analysis (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
Bandolier, an independent online journal about evidence-based health-care, provides information about QALYs and their use in cost-utility analysis
The UK National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence has a webpage on Measuring effectiveness and cost-effectiveness: the QALY
PMCID: PMC2850382  PMID: 20386727
19.  The cost-effectiveness of improved HCV therapies in HIV/HCV co-infected individuals 
AIDS (London, England)  2014;28(3):365-376.
To evaluate the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of strategies to treat hepatitis C virus (HCV) in HIV/HCV co-infected patients in the U.S.
Simulated cohort of HIV/HCV genotype 1 co-infected, non-cirrhotic, HCV treatment-naïve individuals enrolled in U.S. HIV guideline-concordant care.
Monte Carlo simulation comparing 5 strategies: no treatment; “dual therapy" with pegylated-interferon (PEG) and ribavirin (RBV); starting all patients (“PEG/RBV trial”) or some patients (“IL28B triage”) on PEG/RBV and advancing those with treatment failure to PEG/RBV and telaprevir (TVR), and “triple therapy” PEG/RBV/TVR for all patients. Sensitivity analyses varied efficacies and costs and included a scenario with interferon (IFN)-free therapy.
Main Measures
SVR, life expectancy (LE), discounted quality-adjusted life expectancy (QALE) and lifetime medical cost, and incremental cost-effectiveness ratios (ICERs) in $/QALY gained.
“PEG/RBV trial,” “IL28B triage,” and “triple therapy” each provided 72% sustained virologic response (SVR) and extended QALE compared to “dual therapy” by 1.12, 1.14, and 1.15 QALY respectively. The ICER of “PEG/RBV trial” compared to “dual therapy” was $37,500/QALY. “IL28B triage” and “triple therapy” provided little benefit compared to “PEG/RBV trial” and had ICERs exceeding $300,000/QALY. In sensitivity analyses, IFN-free treatment attaining 90% SVR had an ICER <$100,000/QALY compared to “PEG/RBV trial” when its cost was ≤ $109,000 (125% of the cost of PEG/RBV/TVR).
HCV protease inhibitors are most efficiently used in HIV/HCV co-infection after a trial of PEG/RBV, sparing protease inhibitor for those who attain RVR and SVR. The cost-effectiveness of IFN-free regimens for HIV/HCV will depend on the cost of these therapies.
PMCID: PMC4045405  PMID: 24670522
HIV/HCV co-infection; cost-effectiveness; telaprevir; interferon-free
20.  Home Telehealth for Patients With Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) 
Executive Summary
In July 2010, the Medical Advisory Secretariat (MAS) began work on a Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) evidentiary framework, an evidence-based review of the literature surrounding treatment strategies for patients with COPD. This project emerged from a request by the Health System Strategy Division of the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care that MAS provide them with an evidentiary platform on the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of COPD interventions.
After an initial review of health technology assessments and systematic reviews of COPD literature, and consultation with experts, MAS identified the following topics for analysis: vaccinations (influenza and pneumococcal), smoking cessation, multidisciplinary care, pulmonary rehabilitation, long-term oxygen therapy, noninvasive positive pressure ventilation for acute and chronic respiratory failure, hospital-at-home for acute exacerbations of COPD, and telehealth (including telemonitoring and telephone support). Evidence-based analyses were prepared for each of these topics. For each technology, an economic analysis was also completed where appropriate. In addition, a review of the qualitative literature on patient, caregiver, and provider perspectives on living and dying with COPD was conducted, as were reviews of the qualitative literature on each of the technologies included in these analyses.
The Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Mega-Analysis series is made up of the following reports, which can be publicly accessed at the MAS website at:
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) Evidentiary Framework
Influenza and Pneumococcal Vaccinations for Patients With Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Smoking Cessation for Patients With Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Community-Based Multidisciplinary Care for Patients With Stable Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Pulmonary Rehabilitation for Patients With Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Long-term Oxygen Therapy for Patients With Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Noninvasive Positive Pressure Ventilation for Acute Respiratory Failure Patients With Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Noninvasive Positive Pressure Ventilation for Chronic Respiratory Failure Patients With Stable Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Hospital-at-Home Programs for Patients With Acute Exacerbations of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Home Telehealth for Patients With Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Cost-Effectiveness of Interventions for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Using an Ontario Policy Model
Experiences of Living and Dying With COPD: A Systematic Review and Synthesis of the Qualitative Empirical Literature
For more information on the qualitative review, please contact Mita Giacomini at:
For more information on the economic analysis, please visit the PATH website:
The Toronto Health Economics and Technology Assessment (THETA) collaborative has produced an associated report on patient preference for mechanical ventilation. For more information, please visit the THETA website:
The objective of this analysis was to conduct an evidence-based assessment of home telehealth technologies for patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in order to inform recommendations regarding the access and provision of these services in Ontario. This analysis was one of several analyses undertaken to evaluate interventions for COPD. The perspective of this assessment was that of the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, a provincial payer of medically necessary health care services.
Clinical Need: Condition and Target Population
Canada is facing an increase in chronic respiratory diseases due in part to its aging demographic. The projected increase in COPD will put a strain on health care payers and providers. There is therefore an increasing demand for telehealth services that improve access to health care services while maintaining or improving quality and equality of care. Many telehealth technologies however are in the early stages of development or diffusion and thus require study to define their application and potential harms or benefits. The Medical Advisory Secretariat (MAS) therefore sought to evaluate telehealth technologies for COPD.
Telemedicine (or telehealth) refers to using advanced information and communication technologies and electronic medical devices to support the delivery of clinical care, professional education, and health-related administrative services.
Generally there are 4 broad functions of home telehealth interventions for COPD:
to monitor vital signs or biological health data (e.g., oxygen saturation),
to monitor symptoms, medication, or other non-biologic endpoints (e.g., exercise adherence),
to provide information (education) and/or other support services (such as reminders to exercise or positive reinforcement), and
to establish a communication link between patient and provider.
These functions often require distinct technologies, although some devices can perform a number of these diverse functions. For the purposes of this review, MAS focused on home telemonitoring and telephone only support technologies.
Telemonitoring (or remote monitoring) refers to the use of medical devices to remotely collect a patient’s vital signs and/or other biologic health data and the transmission of those data to a monitoring station for interpretation by a health care provider.
Telephone only support refers to disease/disorder management support provided by a health care provider to a patient who is at home via telephone or videoconferencing technology in the absence of transmission of patient biologic data.
Research Questions
What is the effectiveness, cost-effectiveness, and safety of home telemonitoring compared with usual care for patients with COPD?
What is the effectiveness, cost-effectiveness, and safety of telephone only support programs compared with usual care for patients with COPD?
Research Methods
Literature Search
Search Strategy
A literature search was performed on November 3, 2010 using OVID MEDLINE, MEDLINE In-Process and Other Non-Indexed Citations, EMBASE, the Cumulative Index to Nursing & Allied Health Literature (CINAHL), the Cochrane Library, and the International Agency for Health Technology Assessment (INAHTA) for studies published from January 1, 2000 until November 3, 2010. Abstracts were reviewed by a single reviewer and, for those studies meeting the eligibility criteria, full-text articles were obtained. Reference lists were also examined for any additional relevant studies not identified through the search. Articles with unknown eligibility were reviewed with a second clinical epidemiologist, and then a group of epidemiologists until consensus was established. The quality of evidence was assessed as high, moderate, low, or very low according to GRADE methodology.
Inclusion Criteria – Question #1
frequent transmission of a patient’s physiological data collected at home and without a health care professional physically present to health care professionals for routine monitoring through the use of a communication technology;
monitoring combined with a coordinated management and feedback system based on transmitted data;
telemonitoring as a key component of the intervention (subjective determination);
usual care as provided by the usual care provider for the control group;
randomized controlled trials (RCTs), controlled clinical trials (CCTs), systematic reviews, and/or meta-analyses;
published between January 1, 2000 and November 3, 2010.
Inclusion Criteria – Question #2
scheduled or frequent contact between patient and a health care professional via telephone or videoconferencing technology in the absence of transmission of patient physiological data;
monitoring combined with a coordinated management and feedback system based on transmitted data;
telephone support as a key component of the intervention (subjective determination);
usual care as provided by the usual care provider for the control group;
RCTs, CCTs, systematic reviews, and/or meta-analyses;
published between January 1, 2000 and November 3, 2010.
Exclusion Criteria
published in a language other than English;
intervention group (and not control) receiving some form of home visits by a medical professional, typically a nurse (i.e., telenursing) beyond initial technology set-up and education, to collect physiological data, or to somehow manage or treat the patient;
not recording patient or health system outcomes (e.g., technical reports testing accuracy, reliability or other development-related outcomes of a device, acceptability/feasibility studies, etc.);
not using an independent control group that received usual care (e.g., studies employing historical or periodic controls).
Outcomes of Interest
hospitalizations (primary outcome)
emergency department visits
length of stay
quality of life
other […]
Subgroup Analyses (a priori)
length of intervention (primary)
severity of COPD (primary)
Quality of Evidence
The quality of evidence assigned to individual studies was determined using a modified CONSORT Statement Checklist for Randomized Controlled Trials. (1) The CONSORT Statement was adapted to include 3 additional quality measures: the adequacy of control group description, significant differential loss to follow-up between groups, and greater than or equal to 30% study attrition. Individual study quality was defined based on total scores according to the CONSORT Statement checklist: very low (0 to < 40%), low (≥ 40 to < 60%), moderate (≥ 60 to < 80%), and high (≥ 80 to 100%).
The quality of the body of evidence was assessed as high, moderate, low, or very low according to the GRADE Working Group criteria. The following definitions of quality were used in grading the quality of the evidence:
Summary of Findings
Six publications, representing 5 independent trials, met the eligibility criteria for Research Question #1. Three trials were RCTs reported across 4 publications, whereby patients were randomized to home telemonitoring or usual care, and 2 trials were CCTs, whereby patients or health care centers were nonrandomly assigned to intervention or usual care.
A total of 310 participants were studied across the 5 included trials. The mean age of study participants in the included trials ranged from 61.2 to 74.5 years for the intervention group and 61.1 to 74.5 years for the usual care group. The percentage of men ranged from 40% to 64% in the intervention group and 46% to 72% in the control group.
All 5 trials were performed in a moderate to severe COPD patient population. Three trials initiated the intervention following discharge from hospital. One trial initiated the intervention following a pulmonary rehabilitation program. The final trial initiated the intervention during management of patients at an outpatient clinic.
Four of the 5 trials included oxygen saturation (i.e., pulse oximetry) as one of the biological patient parameters being monitored. Additional parameters monitored included forced expiratory volume in one second, peak expiratory flow, and temperature.
There was considerable clinical heterogeneity between trials in study design, methods, and intervention/control. In relation to the telemonitoring intervention, 3 of the 5 included studies used an electronic health hub that performed multiple functions beyond the monitoring of biological parameters. One study used only a pulse oximeter device alone with modem capabilities. Finally, in 1 study, patients measured and then forwarded biological data to a nurse during a televideo consultation. Usual care varied considerably between studies.
Only one trial met the eligibility criteria for Research Question #2. The included trial was an RCT that randomized 60 patients to nurse telephone follow-up or usual care (no telephone follow-up). Participants were recruited from the medical department of an acute-care hospital in Hong Kong and began receiving follow-up after discharge from the hospital with a diagnosis of COPD (no severity restriction). The intervention itself consisted of only two 10-to 20-minute telephone calls, once between days 3 to 7 and once between days 14 to 20, involving a structured, individualized educational and supportive programme led by a nurse that focused on 3 components: assessment, management options, and evaluation.
Regarding Research Question #1:
Low to very low quality evidence (according to GRADE) finds non-significant effects or conflicting effects (of significant or non-significant benefit) for all outcomes examined when comparing home telemonitoring to usual care.
There is a trend towards significant increase in time free of hospitalization and use of other health care services with home telemonitoring, but these findings need to be confirmed further in randomized trials of high quality.
There is severe clinical heterogeneity between studies that limits summary conclusions.
The economic impact of home telemonitoring is uncertain and requires further study.
Home telemonitoring is largely dependent on local information technologies, infrastructure, and personnel, and thus the generalizability of external findings may be low. Jurisdictions wishing to replicate home telemonitoring interventions should likely test those interventions within their jurisdictional framework before adoption, or should focus on home-grown interventions that are subjected to appropriate evaluation and proven effective.
Regarding Research Question #2:
Low quality evidence finds significant benefit in favour of telephone-only support for self-efficacy and emergency department visits when compared to usual care, but non-significant results for hospitalizations and hospital length of stay.
There are very serious issues with the generalizability of the evidence and thus additional research is required.
PMCID: PMC3384362  PMID: 23074421
21.  An unusual cure for acromegaly 
BMJ Case Reports  2012;2012:bcr0220125833.
The authors present the case of a 30-year-old female patient with acromegaly whose disease had not been cured after transcranial neurosurgery, two transsphenoidal surgeries and stereotactic radiosurgery. She required treatment with octreotide and pegvisomant to normalise growth hormone levels. Seven years after the diagnosis of acromegaly, she noticed acute vision loss in her left eye and presented with meningism. She had an intrasellar abscess which was confirmed and treated by surgical drainage. As a result of the abscess, she was cured of acromegaly and able to discontinue both octreotide and pegvisomant.
PMCID: PMC3448754  PMID: 22962372
22.  Acromegaly 
Acromegaly is an acquired disorder related to excessive production of growth hormone (GH) and characterized by progressive somatic disfigurement (mainly involving the face and extremities) and systemic manifestations. The prevalence is estimated at 1:140,000–250,000. It is most often diagnosed in middle-aged adults (average age 40 years, men and women equally affected). Due to insidious onset and slow progression, acromegaly is often diagnosed four to more than ten years after its onset. The main clinical features are broadened extremities (hands and feet), widened thickened and stubby fingers, and thickened soft tissue. The facial aspect is characteristic and includes a widened and thickened nose, prominent cheekbones, forehead bulges, thick lips and marked facial lines. The forehead and overlying skin is thickened, sometimes leading to frontal bossing. There is a tendency towards mandibular overgrowth with prognathism, maxillary widening, tooth separation and jaw malocclusion. The disease also has rheumatologic, cardiovascular, respiratory and metabolic consequences which determine its prognosis. In the majority of cases, acromegaly is related to a pituitary adenoma, either purely GH-secreting (60%) or mixed. In very rare cases, acromegaly is due to ectopic secretion of growth-hormone-releasing hormone (GHRH) responsible for pituitary hyperplasia. The clinical diagnosis is confirmed biochemically by an increased serum GH concentration following an oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) and by detection of increased levels of insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I). Assessment of tumor volume and extension is based on imaging studies. Echocardiography and sleep apnea testing are used to determine the clinical impact of acromegaly. Treatment is aimed at correcting (or preventing) tumor compression by excising the disease-causing lesion, and at reducing GH and IGF-I levels to normal values. Transsphenoidal surgery is often the first-line treatment. When surgery fails to correct GH/IGF-I hypersecretion, medical treatment with somatostatin analogs and/or radiotherapy can be used. The GH antagonist (pegvisomant) is used in patients that are resistant to somatostatin analogs. Adequate hormonal disease control is achieved in most cases, allowing a life expectancy similar to that of the general population. However, even if patients are cured or well-controlled, sequelae (joint pain, deformities and altered quality of life) often remain.
PMCID: PMC2459162  PMID: 18578866
23.  Metabolic Glucose Status and Pituitary Pathology Portend Therapeutic Outcomes in Acromegaly 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(9):e73543.
Acromegaly is frequently associated with impaired glucose tolerance and/or diabetes. To evaluate the relationship between glucose metabolism and acromegaly disease, we evaluated 269 consecutive patients from two referral centres.
Clinical presentation, pituitary tumor size and invasiveness, and pituitary pathology were captured in a dedicated database.
131 women and 138 men with a mean age of 53.8 years were included. Of these, 201 (74.7%) presented with a macroadenoma and 18 (6.7%) with a microadenoma. Radiographic invasion was present in 91 cases (33.8%). Mean tumor diameter was 1.86 cm (0.2–4.6). Pituitary histopathologic findings revealed pure GH-producing somatotroph adenomas (SA) in 147 patients, prolactin-production by mixed lactotroph (LA) and SA or mammosomatotroph adenoma (MSA) in 46 [22.4%], acidophil stem cell adenoma in 6 [2.9%], and other diagnoses in 6 [2.9%]. Medical treatment included octreotide in 96 [36.9%] and in combination with pegvisomant or dopamine agonists in 63 [24.2%]. Nearly 80% of patients achieved IGF-1 normalization. Importantly, patients with pure somatotroph adenomas were significantly more likely to present with abnormal glucose metabolism [48.7%] than those with mixed adenomas [9.7%] [p<0.001] independent of GH/IGF-1 levels or tumor invasiveness. Abnormal glucose metabolism and pituitary pathology also remained linked following IGF-1 normalization. Moreover patients with pure SA and abnormal glucose metabolism were significantly (p<0.001) less likely to achieve disease remission despite the same therapeutic strategies. Conversely, patients with mixed adenomas were more likely (OR: 2.766 (95% CI: 1.490–5.136) to achieve disease remission.
Patients with pure somatotroph adenomas are more likely than those with mixed adenomas to exhibit abnormal glucose metabolism.
PMCID: PMC3767813  PMID: 24039977
24.  Phaeochromocytoma and Acromegaly: a unifying diagnosis 
A 52-year-old lady was referred after a 5 cm left adrenal mass was detected on computed tomography (CT) scanning. She was asymptomatic although was noted to have acromegalic facies. Blood pressure (BP) was normal but plasma normetanephrines were raised to 2.81 mmol/l (<1.09) and urinary normetadrenaline excretion 5.3 μmol/24 h (0–4.3). Adrenal biochemistry screen was otherwise normal. Metaiodobenzylguanidine (MIBG) scan demonstrated uptake in the adrenal lesion. Growth hormone (GH) nadir on oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) was 2.2 ng/ml with an elevated IGF1 level of 435 ng/ml (72–215), confirming acromegaly biochemically. The remainder of the pituitary screen was normal. A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan of the pituitary revealed an enlarged pituitary gland with a microadenoma/cyst of 2–3 mm in diameter. Alpha blockade was achieved with a titrated dose of phenoxybenzamine before a successful laparoscopic hand-assisted left adrenalectomy. Postoperative biochemical testing revealed a normal plasma normetanephrine level of 0.6 nmol/l (<1.09) and a metanephrine level of 0.35 nmol/l (<0.46 nmol/l). Nadir on OGTT was normal at 0.07 ng/ml with an IGF1 level within the reference range at 111 ng/ml (75–215). Histology demonstrated a well-circumscribed and encapsulated oval mass with microscopic features typical for a phaeochromocytoma. The sections stained strongly positive for GHRH in 20% of cells on immunocytochemistry. Genetic analysis showed no pathogenic mutation. This is a report of the rare condition of a phaeochromocytoma co-secreting GHRH resulting in clinical and biochemical acromegaly. Neuroendocrine tumours can stain positive for GHRH without coexisting acromegaly, but the resolution of patient symptoms and normalisation of serum GH and IGF1 levels following surgery imply that this was functional secretion. Pituitary surgery should be avoided in such cases.
Learning points
Incidental findings on imaging require thorough investigation to determine the presence of serious pathology.Acromegaly and phaeochromocytoma are rarely coincident in the same patient. If this occurs, co-secretion of GHRH from the phaeochromocytoma or the presence of underlying genetic abnormalities must be considered.Acromegaly is due to ectopic GHRH-secreting neuroendocrine tumours in <1% of cases, most commonly pancreatic or bronchial lesions.Co-secretion of GHRH from a phaeochromocytoma is extremely rare.In such cases, the pituitary gland may appear enlarged but pituitary surgery should be avoided and surgical treatment of the neuroendocrine tumour attempted.
PMCID: PMC4038022  PMID: 24897038
25.  Ultraviolet Phototherapy Management of Moderate-to-Severe Plaque Psoriasis 
Executive Summary
The purpose of this evidence based analysis was to determine the effectiveness and safety of ultraviolet phototherapy for moderate-to-severe plaque psoriasis.
Research Questions
The specific research questions for the evidence review were as follows:
What is the safety of ultraviolet phototherapy for moderate-to-severe plaque psoriasis?
What is the effectiveness of ultraviolet phototherapy for moderate-to-severe plaque psoriasis?
Clinical Need: Target Population and Condition
Psoriasis is a common chronic, systemic inflammatory disease affecting the skin, nails and occasionally the joints and has a lifelong waning and waxing course. It has a worldwide occurrence with a prevalence of at least 2% of the general population, making it one of the most common systemic inflammatory diseases. The immune-mediated disease has several clinical presentations with the most common (85% - 90%) being plaque psoriasis.
Characteristic features of psoriasis include scaling, redness, and elevation of the skin. Patients with psoriasis may also present with a range of disabling symptoms such as pruritus (itching), pain, bleeding, or burning associated with plaque lesions and up to 30% are classified as having moderate-to-severe disease. Further, some psoriasis patients can be complex medical cases in which diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, and hypertension are more likely to be present than in control populations and 10% also suffer from arthritis (psoriatic arthritis). The etiology of psoriasis is unknown but is thought to result from complex interactions between the environment and predisposing genes.
Management of psoriasis is related to the extent of the skin involvement, although its presence on the hands, feet, face or genitalia can present challenges. Moderate-to-severe psoriasis is managed by phototherapy and a range of systemic agents including traditional immunosuppressants such as methotrexate and cyclospsorin. Treatment with modern immunosuppressant agents known as biologicals, which more specifically target the immune defects of the disease, is usually reserved for patients with contraindications and those failing or unresponsive to treatments with traditional immunosuppressants or phototherapy.
Treatment plans are based on a long-term approach to managing the disease, patient’s expectations, individual responses and risk of complications. The treatment goals are several fold but primarily to:
1) improve physical signs and secondary psychological effects,
2) reduce inflammation and control skin shedding,
3) control physical signs as long as possible, and to
4) avoid factors that can aggravate the condition.
Approaches are generally individualized because of the variable presentation, quality of life implications, co-existent medical conditions, and triggering factors (e.g. stress, infections and medications). Individual responses and commitments to therapy also present possible limitations.
Ultraviolet phototherapy units have been licensed since February 1993 as a class 2 device in Canada. Units are available as hand held devices, hand and foot devices, full-body panel, and booth styles for institutional and home use. Units are also available with a range of ultraviolet A, broad and narrow band ultraviolet B (BB-UVB and NB-UVB) lamps. After establishing appropriate ultraviolet doses, three-times weekly treatment schedules for 20 to 25 treatments are generally needed to control symptoms.
Evidence-Based Analysis Methods
The literature search strategy employed keywords and subject headings to capture the concepts of 1) phototherapy and 2) psoriasis. The search involved runs in the following databases: Ovid MEDLINE (1996 to March Week 3 2009), OVID MEDLINE In-Process and Other Non-Indexed Citations, EMBASE (1980 to 2009 Week 13), the Wiley Cochrane Library, and the Centre for Reviews and Dissemination/International Agency for Health Technology Assessment. Parallel search strategies were developed for the remaining databases. Search results were limited to human and English-language published between January 1999 and March 31, 2009. Search alerts were generated and reviewed for relevant literature up until May 31, 2009.
English language reports and human studies
Ultraviolet phototherapy interventions for plaque-type psoriasis
Reports involving efficacy and/or safety outcome studies
Original reports with defined study methodology
Standardized measurements on outcome events such as technical success, safety, effectiveness, durability, quality of life or patient satisfaction
Non-systematic reviews, letters, comments and editorials
Randomized trials involving side-to-side or half body comparisons
Randomized trials not involving ultraviolet phototherapy intervention for plaque-type psoriasis
Trials involving dosing studies, pilot feasibility studies or lacking control groups
Summary of Findings
A 2000 health technology evidence report on the overall management of psoriasis by The National Institute Health Research (NIHR) Health Technology Assessment Program of the UK was identified in the MAS evidence-based review. The report included 109 RCT studies published between 1966 and June 1999 involving four major treatment approaches – 51 on phototherapy, 32 on oral retinoids, 18 on cyclosporin and five on fumarates.. The absence of RCTs on methotrexate was noted as original studies with this agent had been performed prior to 1966.
Of the 51 RCT studies involving phototherapy, 22 involved UVA, 21 involved UVB, five involved both UVA and UVB and three involved natural light as a source of UV. The RCT studies included comparisons of treatment schedules, ultraviolet source, addition of adjuvant therapies, and comparisons between phototherapy and topical treatment schedules. Because of heterogeneity, no synthesis or meta-analysis could be performed. Overall, the reviewers concluded that the efficacy of only five therapies could be supported from the RCT-based evidence review: photochemotherapy or phototherapy, cyclosporin, systemic retinoids, combination topical vitamin D3 analogues (calcipotriol) and corticosteroids in combination with phototherapy and fumarates. Although there was no RCT evidence supporting methotrexate, it’s efficacy for psoriasis is well known and it continues to be a treatment mainstay.
The conclusion of the NIHR evidence review was that both photochemotherapy and phototherapy were effective treatments for clearing psoriasis, although their comparative effectiveness was unknown. Despite the conclusions on efficacy, a number of issues were identified in the evidence review and several areas for future research were discussed to address these limitations. Trials focusing on comparative effectiveness, either between ultraviolet sources or between classes of treatment such as methotrexate versus phototherapy, were recommended to refine treatment algorithms. The need for better assessment of cost-effectiveness of therapies to consider systemic drug costs and costs of surveillance, as well as drug efficacy, were also noted. Overall, the authors concluded that phototherapy and photochemotherapy had important roles in psoriasis management and were standard therapeutic options for psoriasis offered in dermatology practices.
The MAS evidence-based review focusing on the RCT trial evidence for ultraviolet phototherapy management of moderate-to-severe plaque psoriasis was performed as an update to the NIHR 2000 systemic review on treatments for severe psoriasis. In this review, an additional 26 RCT reports examining phototherapy or photochemotherapy for psoriasis were identified. Among the studies were two RCTs comparing ultraviolet wavelength sources, five RCTs comparing different forms of phototherapy, four RCTs combining phototherapy with prior spa saline bathing, nine RCTs combining phototherapy with topical agents, two RCTs combining phototherapy with the systemic immunosuppressive agents methotrexate or alefacept, one RCT comparing phototherapy with an additional light source (the excimer laser), and one comparing a combination therapy with phototherapy and psychological intervention involving simultaneous audiotape sessions on mindfulness and stress reduction. Two trials also examined the effect of treatment setting on effectiveness of phototherapy, one on inpatient versus outpatient therapy and one on outpatient clinic versus home-based phototherapy.
The conclusions of the MAS evidence-based review are outlined in Table ES1. In summary, phototherapy provides good control of clinical symptoms in the short term for patients with moderate-to-severe plaque-type psoriasis that have failed or are unresponsive to management with topical agents. However, many of the evidence gaps identified in the NIHR 2000 evidence review on psoriasis management persisted. In particular, the lack of evidence on the comparative effectiveness and/or cost-effectiveness between the major treatment options for moderate-to-severe psoriasis remained. The evidence on effectiveness and safety of longer term strategies for disease management has also not been addressed. Evidence for the safety, effectiveness, or cost-effectiveness of phototherapy delivered in various settings is emerging but is limited. In addition, because all available treatments for psoriasis – a disease with a high prevalence, chronicity, and cost – are palliative rather than curative, strategies for disease control and improvements in self-efficacy employed in other chronic disease management strategies should be investigated.
RCT Evidence for Ultraviolet Phototherapy Treatment of Moderate-To-Severe Plaque Psoriasis
Phototherapy is an effective treatment for moderate-to-severe plaque psoriasis
Narrow band PT is more effective than broad band PT for moderate-to-severe plaque psoriasis
Oral-PUVA has a greater clinical response, requires less treatments and has a greater cumulative UV irradiation dose than UVB to achieve treatment effects for moderate-to-severe plaque psoriasis
Spa salt water baths prior to phototherapy did increase short term clinical response of moderate-to-severe plaque psoriasis but did not decrease cumulative UV irradiation dose
Addition of topical agents (vitamin D3 calcipotriol) to NB-UVB did not increase mean clinical response or decrease treatments or cumulative UV irradiation dose
Methotrexate prior to NB-UVB in high need psoriasis patients did significantly increase clinical response, decrease number of treatment sessions and decrease cumulative UV irradiation dose
Phototherapy following alefacept did increase early clinical response in moderate-to-severe plaque psoriasis
Effectiveness and safety of home NB-UVB phototherapy was not inferior to NB-UVB phototherapy provided in a clinic to patients with psoriasis referred for phototherapy. Treatment burden was lower and patient satisfaction was higher with home therapy and patients in both groups preferred future phototherapy treatments at home
Ontario Health System Considerations
A 2006 survey of ultraviolet phototherapy services in Canada identified 26 phototherapy clinics in Ontario for a population of over 12 million. At that time, there were 177 dermatologists and 50 geographic regions in which 28% (14/50) provided phototherapy services. The majority of the phototherapy services were reported to be located in densely populated areas; relatively few patients living in rural communities had access to these services. The inconvenience of multiple weekly visits for optimal phototherapy treatment effects poses additional burdens to those with travel difficulties related to health, job, or family-related responsibilities.
Physician OHIP billing for phototherapy services totaled 117,216 billings in 2007, representing approximately 1,800 patients in the province treated in private clinics. The number of patients treated in hospitals is difficult to estimate as physician costs are not billed directly to OHIP in this setting. Instead, phototherapy units and services provided in hospitals are funded by hospitals’ global budgets. Some hospitals in the province, however, have divested their phototherapy services, so the number of phototherapy clinics and their total capacity is currently unknown.
Technological advances have enabled changes in phototherapy treatment regimens from lengthy hospital inpatient stays to outpatient clinic visits and, more recently, to an at-home basis. When combined with a telemedicine follow-up, home phototherapy may provide an alternative strategy for improved access to service and follow-up care, particularly for those with geographic or mobility barriers. Safety and effectiveness have, however, so far been evaluated for only one phototherapy home-based delivery model. Alternate care models and settings could potentially increase service options and access, but the broader consequences of the varying cost structures and incentives that either increase or decrease phototherapy services are unknown.
Economic Analyses
The focus of the current economic analysis was to characterize the costs associated with the provision of NB-UVB phototherapy for plaque-type, moderate-to-severe psoriasis in different clinical settings, including home therapy. A literature review was conducted and no cost-effectiveness (cost-utility) economic analyses were published in this area.
Hospital, Clinic, and Home Costs of Phototherapy
Costs for NB-UVB phototherapy were based on consultations with equipment manufacturers and dermatologists. Device costs applicable to the provision of NB-UVB phototherapy in hospitals, private clinics and at a patient’s home were estimated. These costs included capital costs of purchasing NB-UVB devices (amortized over 15-20 years), maintenance costs of replacing equipment bulbs, physician costs of phototherapy treatment in private clinics ($7.85 per phototherapy treatment), and medication and laboratory costs associated with treatment of moderate-to-severe psoriasis.
NB-UVB phototherapy services provided in a hospital setting were paid for by hospitals directly. Phototherapy services in private clinic and home settings were paid for by the clinic and patient, respectively, except for physician services covered by OHIP. Indirect funding was provided to hospitals as part of global budgeting and resource allocation. Home therapy services for NB-UVB phototherapy were not covered by the MOHLTC. Coverage for home-based phototherapy however, was in some cases provided by third party insurers.
Device costs for NB-UVB phototherapy were estimated for two types of phototherapy units: a “booth unit” consisting of 48 bulbs used in hospitals and clinics, and a “panel unit” consisting of 10 bulbs for home use. The device costs of the booth and panel units were estimated at approximately $18,600 and $2,900, respectively; simple amortization over 15 and 20 years implied yearly costs of approximately $2,500 and $150, respectively. Replacement cost for individual bulbs was about $120 resulting in total annual cost of maintenance of about $8,640 and $120 for booth and panel units, respectively.
Estimated Total Costs for Ontario
Average annual cost per patient for NB-UVB phototherapy provided in the hospital, private clinic or at home was estimated to be $292, $810 and $365 respectively. For comparison purposes, treatment of moderate-to-severe psoriasis with methotrexate and cyclosporin amounted to $712 and $3,407 annually per patient respectively; yearly costs for biological drugs were estimated to be $18,700 for alefacept and $20,300 for etanercept-based treatments.
Total annual costs of NB-UVB phototherapy were estimated by applying average costs to an estimated proportion of the population (age 18 or older) eligible for phototherapy treatment. The prevalence of psoriasis was estimated to be approximately 2% of the population, of which about 85% was of plaque-type psoriasis and approximately 20% to 30% was considered moderate-to-severe in disease severity. An estimate of 25% for moderate-to-severe psoriasis cases was used in the current economic analysis resulting in a range of 29,400 to 44,200 cases. Approximately 21% of these patients were estimated to be using NB-UVB phototherapy for treatment resulting in a number of cases in the range between 6,200 and 9,300 cases. The average (7,700) number of cases was used to calculate associated costs for Ontario by treatment setting.
Total annual costs were as follows: $2.3 million in a hospital setting, $6.3 million in a private clinic setting, and $2.8 million for home phototherapy. Costs for phototherapy services provided in private clinics were greater ($810 per patient annually; total of $6.3 million annually) and differed from the same services provided in the hospital setting only in terms of additional physician costs associated with phototherapy OHIP fees.
Psoriasis, ultraviolet radiation, phototherapy, photochemotherapy, NB-UVB, BB-UVB PUVA
PMCID: PMC3377497  PMID: 23074532

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