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Keywords:

  • airway inflammation;
  • asthma;
  • cost-effectiveness;
  • exhaled nitric oxide;
  • model

Background:  Fractional exhaled nitric oxide (FENO), a marker of eosinophilic airway inflammation, is easily measured by noninvasive means. The objective of this study was to determine the cost-effectiveness of FENO measurement using a hand-held monitor (NIOX MINO), at a reimbursement price of £23, for asthma diagnosis and management in the UK.

Methods:  We constructed two decision trees to compare FENO measurement with standard diagnostic testing and guideline recommendations for management. For asthma diagnosis, we compared FENO measurement with lung function and reversibility testing, bronchial provocation and sputum eosinophil count. For asthma management, we evaluated the impact on asthma control, including inhaled corticosteroid use, exacerbations and hospitalizations, of monitoring with FENO measurement vs symptoms and lung function as in standard care. Resource use and health outcomes were evaluated over a 1-year time frame. Direct costs were calculated from a UK health-care payer perspective (2005 £).

Results:  An asthma diagnosis using FENO measurement cost £43 less per patient as compared with standard diagnostic tests. Asthma management using FENO measurement instead of lung function testing resulted in annual cost-savings of £341 and 0.06 quality-adjusted life-years gained for patients with mild to severe asthma and cost-savings of £554 and 0.004 quality-adjusted life-years gained for those with moderate to severe asthma.

Conclusions:  Asthma diagnosis based on FENO measurement with NIOX MINO alone is less costly and more accurate than standard diagnostic methods. Asthma management based on FENO measurement is less costly than asthma management based on standard guidelines and provides similar health benefits.