• gastroenterology;
  • pharmacoeconomics;
  • surgery outcomes;
  • evidence-based medicine;
  • alvimopan

Study Objective

To determine whether alvimopan for prevention of postoperative ileus in patients undergoing small- or large-bowel resection by laparotomy is associated with lower total costs compared with standard care.


Pharmacoeconomic analysis using a formal decision model.

Data Source

Four phase III clinical trials, two pooled analyses, and one meta-analysis.

Patient Population

A cohort of patients who underwent bowel resection with primary anastomosis by laparotomy and received either standardized, accelerated postoperative care (usual care) or usual care plus alvimopan.

Measurements and Main Results

Clinical outcomes, obtained from pooled analyses of published studies, were time to discharge order written, postoperative nasogastric tube insertion, postoperative ileus-related readmission within 7 days, and occurrence of nausea and vomiting. Cost inputs included drugs, nursing labor, readmissions, and hospitalizations. Costs were assessed by determining the net cost of alvimopan use and subsequent reduction in length of stay. Sensitivity and scenario analyses were conducted. Costs for alvimopan were $570 based on an average of 9.5 doses. Given the 18.4-hour mean reduction in time to discharge order written, use of alvimopan reduced hospitalization costs by $2021. Mean difference in overall cost of care, as determined by Monte Carlo simulation, was $1168 (95% certainty interval −$437 to $5879), favoring the use of alvimopan. In the sensitivity analysis, association of alvimopan with lower costs was robust to several changes in key parameters including cost and number of doses of alvimopan, time to discharge order written, readmission rates, and hospitalization cost. In the scenario analyses, alvimopan use yielded a net cost of $226 when no difference in time to discharge order written was assumed. In the scenario analysis using data from a study that did not enforce opioid use, alvimopan resulted in a cost saving of $65/patient.


Alvimopan was cost saving for prevention of postoperative ileus in patients undergoing bowel resection by laparotomy, although these potential cost savings were highly dependent on a difference in time to discharge order written. This finding is not applicable to the less-invasive laparoscopic surgical approach for which quality data on alvimopan use are lacking. Limitations of this analysis included use of time to discharge order written as a proxy for length of stay and difficulty interpreting study results due to inconsistent reporting and conduct of the clinical trials evaluating alvimopan. More research is needed to determine the cost-effectiveness of alvimopan.