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Peter L. Greenberg, Leon E. Cosler, Salvatore A. Ferro, and Gary H. Lyman

Guidelines for management of patients with myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) have been generated by the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) Myelodysplastic Syndromes Panel. Because MDS is a heterogeneous spectrum of disorders, these patients have been categorized into prognostic subgroups, predominantly using the International Prognostic Scoring System (IPSS). Several drugs have been used to treat these patients, and their selection and sequential recommended use by the panel depend on disease characteristics and responses to treatment. Recombinant erythropoietin alfa and darbepoetin alfa have been the mainstay of therapy for treating anemia associated with MDS. The FDA has recently approved several other drugs for treating MDS, including azacytidine and decitabine for all stages of disease, lenalidomide for low-risk anemic patients with del(5q) chromosomal abnormality, and deferasirox for treating iron overload. For iron chelation, deferoxamine is also used occasionally. Treatment with immunosuppressive therapy (antithymocyte globulin and cyclosporin) has been therapeutically beneficial for a subset of younger patients with MDS. Because the financial cost of these therapies are substantial and have received only limited attention, this article evaluates the costs of specific drugs and their sequential use in the lower-risk IPSS (low and intermediate-1) subgroups based on the NCCN guidelines. Results estimate an average annual cost for potentially anemia-altering drugs of $63,577 per patient, ranging from $26,000 to $95,000, depending on the specific therapies. In patients for whom the therapies fail, annual costs for iron chelation plus red blood cell transfusions are estimated to average $41,412. The economic impact of drug therapy should be weighed against the patient's potential for improvement in clinical outcomes, quality of life, and transfusion requirements.