Placing a Value on New Technologies
In this issue of Circulation, two studies examine the value (cost-effectiveness) of two rapidly changing technologies: ventricular assist devices (VADs) as a bridge to transplant for patients with heart failure, and left atrial appendage (LAA) occlusion as an alternative to anticoagulation for atrial fibrillation. Both heart failure and atrial fibrillation impose an important economic and health burden on western societies that is only going to worsen as their populations age. In addition, the high cost of treating these conditions in the United States (US) is increasingly paid by Medicare resulting in greater taxes and premiums for all.
Heart failure is already the most common reason for hospitalization in the US Medicare program and its prevalence in the US is estimated to grow by 43% to 8 million people by 20301. The cost of this care, due solely to the aging of the US population is expected to increase from 30 to 70 billion during the next 20 years. As the number of patients with heart failure grows so will the number of those with end-stage heart failure. Given that the rate of cardiac transplantation has not increased2 many patients, providers, and payers will consider the use of ventricular assist devices (VADs) as a potential therapy for those not responding to other therapies. Older generation VADs were shown shown to improve survival in patients with severe heart failure (REMATCH)3. More recently continuous flow devices have been found to provide even better outcome and have been used routinely for several years4. Unfortunately the devices are expensive with an acquisition cost near $150,0005. The use of VADs for both destination therapy and as a bridge to transplant has increased resulting in estimated VAD costs in the US climbing from $143 million to $479 million in 20096.
- Received May 14, 2013.
- Accepted May 17, 2013.