An economic evaluation of vagus nerve stimulation as an adjunctive treatment to anti-seizure medications for the treatment of drug-resistant epilepsy in England.
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INTRODUCTION: Anti-seizure medications (ASMs) are commonly used to prevent recurring epileptic seizures, but around a third of people with epilepsy fail to achieve an adequate response. Vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) is clinically recommended for people with drug-resistant epilepsy (DRE) who are not suitable for surgery, but the cost-effectiveness of the intervention has not recently been evaluated. The study objective is to estimate costs and quality-adjusted life-years (QALYs) associated with using VNS as an adjunct to ongoing ASM therapy, compared to the strategy of using only ASMs in the treatment of people with DRE, from an English National Health Service perspective. METHODS: A cohort state transition model was developed in Microsoft Excel to simulate costs and QALYs of the VNS + ASM and ASM only strategies. Patients could transition between five health states, using a 3-month cycle length. Health states were defined by an expected percentage reduction in seizure frequency, derived from randomized control trial data. Costs included the VNS device as well as its installation, setup, and removal; ASM therapy; adverse events associated with VNS (dyspnea, hoarseness, and cough); and health-state costs associated with epilepsy including hospitalizations, emergency department visits, neurologist visits, and primary care visits. A range of sensitivity analyses, including probabilistic sensitivity analysis, were run to assess the impact of parameter and structural uncertainty. RESULTS: In the base case, VNS + ASM had an estimated incremental cost-effectiveness ratio (ICER) of £17,771 per QALY gained compared to ASMs alone. The cost-effective ICER was driven by relative reductions in expected seizure frequency and the differences in health care resource use associated therewith. Sensitivity analyses found that the amount of resource use per epilepsy-related health state was a key driver of the cost component. CONCLUSIONS: VNS is expected to be a cost-effective intervention in the treatment of DRE in the English National Health Service.
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