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ICER Devalues People With Rheumatoid Arthritis

2017-03-28 | Robert Goldberg

ICER recently had a meeting to discuss its latest study: "Targeted Immune Modulators for Rheumatoid Arthritis: Effectiveness & Value." It is no different than any other ICER report:  It concludes no medicine is cost effective and it uses methodology that no economist can replicate.   ICER reports are the cold fusion experiments of health care economics. 

I have released a report discussing the impact of ICERs approach on patients.  It concludes that applying ICER's cost-effectiveness standard to all biologics developed for RA since 2000 (none are cost-effective according to ICER) would have harmed a lot of people with RA.

Between 1999 and 2014 there would have been 46689 more deaths under an ICER regime.   Additionally, research suggests that since 1999 the life expectancy of people with RA who used new medicines could expect to live 10 years longer than those not treated.   Hence under an ICER regime people with RA would have 466894 fewer life years (46689 x 10).  

Going forward, ICER claims new RA drugs are not cost effective either.  

ICER estimates that only 97000 people year for five years (486000) with RA would get two new drugs it reviewed: baricitinib and sarilumab.  Both medicines were tested in people with RA whose disease didn’t respond to any other treatments or couldn’t tolerate any other medicines.  

ICER fails to disclose how they arrived at the estimate that 97000 people a year would use new drugs. Further, it assumes – without any support – that 70% of new users on baricitinib would come from patients using sarilumab and 30% would come from another biologic -- adalimumab--that it claims isn't cost effective either. 

In doing so, ICER assumed that 50% of these patients were moderate-to-severe cases, and 50% of this subset had failed initial treatment with non-biologic RA drugs such as methotrexate.  ICER states: "Applying these proportions to the projected 2016 US population resulted in an estimate of approximately 486,000 patients in the US over a five-year period.”

But this assumption is flawed. A recent study found that 50 percent of all RA patients failed to respond to their second-line biologics. Further, many other patients will stop responding to any therapy.   Finally, ICER did not consider that many people with RA do not benefit from any other medicines.  So, there is little basis to assume that two new medicines would not be used more widely as well as claim that one would replace the other.  

If the 97000 limit is applied, 398000 people with RA a year would be denied medicines that improve their condition and could likely increase their life expectancy. ICER limits would cost RA patients up to 250900 life years over that time. 

You can access the entire study here