Increasing costs of cancer treatment and anticancer drugs can create a financial burden on society and the individual. Pembrolizumab is an anti-PD-1 inhibitor immunotherapy approved for use in recurrent or metastatic head and neck squamous cell carcinoma. Limited data exists on the cost-effectiveness of pembrolizumab in this setting. This study compares the costeffectiveness of pembrolizumab against traditional chemotherapy using data from KEYNOTE-040. Published data from KEYNOTE-040 were used to create a model estimating treatment costs and overall survival benefit of pembrolizumab and traditional chemotherapy. Costs of treatment of toxicity-related events were obtained from previous literature and were incorporated into the model. Derivation of survival benefit gained from treatment was measured in quality-adjusted life-years (QALYs). The incremental cost-effectiveness ratio (ICER) of pembrolizumab compared to the investigator's choice (IC) was $801,864/QALY. The average drug cost of pembrolizumab would have to approximately decrease by 63% in order to reach the cost-effective threshold of $100,000/ QALY. Pembrolizumab would have to confer a survival benefit of 0.88 QALYs per patient over the IC to reach the cost-effective threshold. Pembrolizumab is not considered cost effective at a threshold of $100,000/QALY based on survival data reported in KEYNOTE-040. Improved long-term outcomes of patients on this relatively new immunotherapy have yet to be reported. Inclusion of these data in the future would likely improve the cost-effectiveness calculations of pembrolizumab and other immunotherapies.
- head and neck cancer
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