Objectives: Of estimated 112 million persons infected with chronic hepatitis B (CHB) in China, 15% to 40% will eventually develop liver complications. Most patients do not actively seek antiviral agents for treatment due in part to lack of good understanding of the disease. Entecavir is a new therapeutic option for CHB patients and the purpose of this study was to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of entecavir treatment in China, based on projected clinical benefits from its superior viral suppression efficacy.
Methods: The analysis was based on the perspective of the Chinese Social Security program. Adjusted relative risks on the association between viral load (VL) and clinical end points (liver cirrhosis/hepatocellular carcinoma) were derived from a publication of a Taiwan CHB prospective cohort with 42,115 person-years of follow-up, and applied to patients enrolled in a randomized phase III trial in China. In this trial, hepatitis B virus (HBV) DNA (by polymerase chain reaction assay) was the key efficacy end point after 48 weeks of treatment with either entecavir or lamivudine monotherapy. Entecavir and lamivudine daily prices were assumed to be Renminbi Yuan (RMB) 40 and 16.71, respectively. Life expectancy tables were based on China vital statistics. Direct medical cost and utility scores for different phases of CHB were estimated from published China specific data, and costs were adjusted to 2006 values using the Chinese Consumer Price Index. Probabilistic sensitivity analyses were conducted to evaluate parameter uncertainty on event distribution and treatment failure rates beyond the trial period.
Results: A total of 519 subjects were enrolled in the study, comprising of 82% males, 87% HBeAg+, and a mean age of 30 years. Based on the efficacy measurement of the percentage of patients achieving HBV DNA <300 copies/ml at week 48, entecavir was superior to lamivudine (78.7% vs. 46.7%, respectively [P < 0.05]). In the base case, compared with lamivudine, 1 year of entecavir therapy gained 0.305 quality-adjusted life year (QALY) at an incremental cost of 5368 RMB, with a 3% annual discount. Compared with lamivudine, using entecavir cost an incremental 17,590 RMB per QALY gained (95% CI 6333–56,407).
Conclusions: Based on the results of this study, entecavir is likely to be cost-effective in treating hepatitis B patients in China based on the World Health Organization's recommended maximum willingness to pay threshold.