Low molecular weight heparins hold several advantages over unfractionated heparin including convenience of administration. Enoxaparin is one such heparin licensed in the UK for use in unstable coronary artery disease (unstable stable angina and non-Q wave myocardial infarction). In these patients, two large randomised controlled trials and their meta-analysis showed small benefits for enoxaparin over unfractionated heparin at 30–43 days and potentially at one year.
We found no relevant published full economic evaluations, only cost studies, one of which was conducted in the UK. The other studies, from the US, Canada and France, are difficult to interpret since their resource use and costs may not reflect UK practice.
We aimed to compare the benefits and costs of short-term treatment (two to eight days) with enoxaparin and unfractionated heparin in unstable coronary artery disease. We used published data sources to estimate the incremental cost per quality adjusted life year (QALY), adopting a NHS perspective and using 1998 prices.
The base case was a 0.013 QALY gain and net cost saving of £317 per person treated with enoxaparin instead of unfractionated heparin. All but one sensitivity analysis showed net savings and QALY gains, the exception (the worst case) being a cost per QALY of £3,305. Best cases were a £495 saving and 0.013 QALY gain, or a £317 saving and 0.014 QALY gain per person.
Enoxaparin appears cost saving compared with unfractionated heparin in patients with unstable coronary artery disease. However, cost implications depend on local revascularisation practice.