Objective. Palivizumab has been shown to reduce the number of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)-related hospitalizations by 45% in children with congenital heart disease (CHD). The American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended that infants with hemodynamically significant CHD be considered for palivizumab. However, the economic implications of palivizumab prophylaxis in the CHD population have not been evaluated. In the present study, we sought to examine the cost savings and cost utility of RSV prophylaxis with palivizumab in children with CHD.

Methods. Probabilities of hospitalization and efficacy of prophylaxis were based on published results. Costs of hospitalization were derived from a published analysis of bronchiolitis hospitalization costs from a consortium of children's hospitals. A hypothetical cohort of 10 000 CHD patients (half of whom would receive palivizumab) was created to calculate cost-savings and cost-utility. To assess cost utility, we assumed that by reducing hospitalization, palivizumab would reduce RSV-related hospital mortality, generally reported to be 3% in CHD patients. Sensitivity analysis was performed.

Results. On the basis of a protocol of 5 monthly doses of palivizumab, the cost of prophylaxis for 1 RSV season was calculated as $6160 per patient. After accounting for impact on direct and indirect costs of hospitalization, administration of palivizumab to 5000 CHD patients would result in a net loss of $20 415 753. If one assumes that palivizumab confers a survival benefit, then the cost of life-year saved is $100 338 and cost of quality-adjusted life-year saved is $114 337.

Conclusions. The cost of palivizumab prophylaxis was high relative to benefits realized. Given the large number of CHD patients who might be considered candidates for RSV prophylaxis (>6000 patients per year in United States) routine use of palivizumab in young children with hemodynamically significant CHD needs to be evaluated further.

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