Spotlight on Paclitaxel in Ovarian Cancer The full text of this article was published in PharmacoEconomics 2001; 19 (12): 1227-1259.
Greg L. Plosker
Paclitaxel belongs to the group of antitumor agents called the taxanes. Its efficacy in advanced ovarian cancer has been established in large, randomized phase III clinical trials. When used in combination with cisplatin for first-line treatment of advanced ovarian cancer, it is superior to cyclophosphamide/cisplatin, with gains in median survival of around 1 year. Paclitaxel plus carboplatin has similar efficacy to paclitaxel plus cisplatin. There is now consensus that paclitaxel plus either carboplatin or cisplatin is the recommended first-line therapy for patients with advanced ovarian cancer. The particular combination employed may vary between institutions and geographical regions, although paclitaxel plus carboplatin is generally better tolerated (i.e. lower incidence of non-hematologic adverse events) than paclitaxel plus cisplatin and is widely used in many countries. Paclitaxel is also used as monotherapy in second-line (salvage) treatment of ovarian cancer. Pharmacoeconomic analyses performed to date have primarily focused on first-line therapy comparing the combination of paclitaxel/cisplatin with cyclophosphamide/cisplatin. All studies incorporated clinical outcomes data, most commonly from the Gynecologic Oncology Group (GOG) 111 trial, showing a survival advantage for paclitaxel/cisplatin. These studies report incremental cost-effectiveness ratios (ICERs) ranging from $US6395 per additional life-year gained (LYG) in Spain (1995/96 values) to US$44 690 per additional progression-free LYG in France (year of costs not reported). Five studies were based in the US and Canada and these reported very similar ICERs of $US13 135 (year of costs not reported) to $US25 131 (1993 costs) per additional LYG. In all of these studies the incremental costs of paclitaxel/cisplatin therapy fall well within the commonly cited threshold limit of $US50 000 for new therapies and compare well with incremental costs reported for other oncologic and life-saving therapies. Patient preferences and quality of life are important issues due to the short survival of patients with ovarian cancer. Two cost-utility studies reported similar incremental cost-utility ratios (ICURs). In the study based on US costs, the ICUR of paclitaxel/cisplatin treatment was $US18 200 per additional quality-adjusted life-year (QALY) [1995 drug costs]. In a Canadian study the ICUR ranged from 11 600 Canadian dollars ($Can) to $Can24 200 (1996 costs) per additional progression-free QALY depending on the choice of second-line treatment. Conclusions: Paclitaxel used in combination with cisplatin offers survival and utility gains versus cyclophosphamide plus cisplatin, when used as first-line treatment in patients with stage III or IV ovarian cancer. The incremental cost for these gains is within the accepted range for healthcare interventions. However, pharmacoeconomic analyses of paclitaxel plus carboplatin - a combination widely accepted for use in women with advanced ovarian cancer and with clinical advantages over paclitaxel plus cisplatin in terms of ease of administration and tolerability profile - are currently lacking. Nevertheless, results of available pharmacoeconomic data support the clinical use of paclitaxel/platinum combinations, particularly paclitaxel plus cisplatin, as a first-line chemotherapy treatment option in patients with advanced ovarian cancer.
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