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Cost-Effectiveness of Implantable Defibrillators versus the Drug Amiodarone To Prevent Abnormal Heart Rhythms after Heart Attack FREE

[+] Article and Author Information

The summary below is from the full report titled “Potential Cost-Effectiveness of Prophylactic Use of the Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator or Amiodarone after Myocardial Infarction.” It is in the 20 November 2001 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine (volume 135, pages 870–883). The authors are GD Sanders, MA Hlatky, NR Every, KM McDonald, PA Heidenreich, LS Parsons, and DK Owens.


Ann Intern Med. 2001;135(10):S56. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-135-10-200111200-00003
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What is the problem and what is known about it so far?

After a heart attack, some patients develop a dangerous heart rhythm called sustained ventricular arrhythmia. If the patient is in the hospital, doctors or nurses apply an electric shock to the chest to stop the rhythm (external cardioversion). It is now possible to place a device called an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD), which monitors heart rhythm, inside the chest. When it detects a dangerous rhythm, it applies an electrical shock to restore a normal heart rhythm. The ICD improves the survival of people who have had sustained ventricular arrhythmias. These dangerous rhythms could also be prevented by treatment with a drug, such as amiodarone. However, the balance between the costs of these treatments and their potential benefits is not known.

Why did the researchers do this particular study?

To find out how effective the ICD or amiodarone would need to be in patients who have had heart attacks to make it an efficient way to use taxpayer dollars.

Who was studied?

The researchers developed a computer model to simulate a hypothetical group of patients who had had heart attacks but had not yet had a sustained ventricular arrhythmia.

How was the study done?

The computer model simulated the outcomes and costs that would apply if patients with heart attack received an ICD, amiodarone, or no special therapy. To estimate what might happen to patients and how much each option might cost, the authors used information from previous studies, a patient registry, and expert opinion. The researchers defined therapy costing less than $75,000 for every extra year of healthy life gained by the treatment as reasonably efficient (cost-effective). The model calculated how many deaths ICDs or amiodarone would need to prevent to cost less than $75,000 per extra year of healthy life saved.

What did the researchers find?

Compared with no treatment, ICDs had the fewest deaths and the highest costs, while amiodarone had intermediate benefits and costs. To cost less than $75,000 per quality-adjusted life-year, ICDs would need to reduce the number of deaths from ventricular arrhythmias by half in patients with heart failure. Because amiodarone is much less expensive than ICDs, it would need to reduce total deaths by only 7% to be cost-effective at this level.

What were the limitations of the study?

It is not yet known how effective ICDs and amiodarone are in preventing deaths in patients who have had heart attacks but have not yet experienced an arrhythmia. This study estimates only how effective these preventive treatments would need to be in order to be reasonably cost-effective.

What are the implications of the study?

If future studies show that ICDs can reduce the number of arrhythmic deaths by half in patients with heart failure or that amiodarone can reduce total deaths by 7%, these preventive strategies may offer benefit at levels of cost-effectiveness that society typically considers reasonable.

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