Myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) is rare in people aged <50 years. Most patients with this disorder experience progressive worsening of blood cytopenias, with an increasing need for transfusion. The more advanced and severe the disorder, the greater the risk that it will progress to acute myeloid leukemia. Therapy is typically based on the patient's risk category, age, and performance status. Supportive care alone is a major option for lower-risk, older patients with MDS or those with comorbidities. The only potentially curative treatment option is hematopoietic stem-cell transplantation, which is typically used to treat high-risk, younger patients.
To describe and compare the hematologic complications, healthcare utilization, and costs of supportive care in patients with MDS aged <50 years and in older patients aged ≥50 years.
Using the i3/Ingenix LabRx claims database, this retrospective study included patients who were continuously enrolled (ie, 6 months preindex through 1 year postindex) in the study and who had an initial claim of MDS (index date) between February 1, 2007, and July 31, 2008. Patients treated with hypomethylating agents or thalidomide analogues were excluded. Claims included information on office visits, medical procedures, hospitalizations, drug use, and tests performed. The hematologic complications, costs, and utilization analyses were stratified by age into 2 age-groups—patients aged <50 years and those aged ≥50 years. The MDS-related diagnoses, utilization, and costs were analyzed postindex. The data used in this study spanned the period from August 1, 2006, to July 31, 2009.
We identified 1133 newly diagnosed patients with MDS who received supportive care only during the study period; of these, 19.5% were younger than age 50 years. These younger patients included more females (62.0% vs 52.5%; P = .011) and had fewer comorbidities (mean Charlson comorbidy index, 1.2 vs 2.4; P <.001) and physician office visits than those aged ≥50 years. Postindex, compared with the older patients, the younger patients had less use of erythropoietin therapy and fewer transfusions, anemia diagnoses, and potential complications of neutropenia and pneumonia diagnoses; however, more diagnoses of neutropenia and of decreased white blood cell counts were seen in the younger patients than in the older patients (P ≤.034 for all comparisons). Furthermore, younger patients had fewer mean office visits in the postindex period than older patients (17.5 vs 24.2, respectively; P <.001) and fewer hospitalizations (32.1% vs 44.6%, respectively; P = .004), but they had a longer (although not statistically significant) mean length of hospital stay (21 vs 14 days, respectively; P = .131). Mean total healthcare charges were $96,277 (median, $21,287) in younger patients compared with $84,102 (median, $39,402) in older patients, although this difference, too, was not significant.
MDS is associated with frequent and prolonged hospitalizations, frequent outpatient visits, and high costs in younger and in older patients who are receiving supportive care. Although this study shows that younger patients aged <50 years do not have significantly higher costs overall, a small proportion may have a higher healthcare utilization and cost-related burden of MDS than patients aged ≥50 years.