A Cost-Effectiveness Model for Adjunctive Smoked Cannabis in the Treatment of Chronic Neuropathic Pain, 2019

A Cost-Effectiveness Model for Adjunctive Smoked Cannabis in the Treatment of Chronic Neuropathic Pain

Griffin A. TYREE, Reith SARKAR, Brandon K. BELLOWS, Ronald J. ELLIS, Joseph HAMPTON ATKINSON, Thomas D. MARCOTTE, Mark S. WALLACE, Igor GRANT, Yuyan SHI, James D. MURPHY, and David J. GRELOTTI

Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, Volume 0, Number 0, 2019
Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.
DOI: 10.1089/can.2018.0027



Background : A recent meta-analysis affirmed the benefit of medicinal cannabis for chronic neuropathic pain, a disabling and difficult-to-treat condition. As medicinal cannabis use is becoming increasingly prevalent among Americans, an exploration of its economic feasibility is warranted. We present this cost-effectiveness analysis of adjunctive cannabis pharmacotherapy for chronic peripheral neuropathy.

Materials and Methods : A published Markov model comparing conventional therapies for painful diabetic neuropathy was modified to include arms for augmenting first-line, second-line (if first-line failed), or third-line (if firstand second-line failed) therapies with smoked cannabis. Microsimulation of 1,000,000 patients compared the cost (2017 U.S. dollars) and effectiveness (quality-adjusted life years [QALYs]) of usual care with and without adjunctive cannabis using a composite of third-party and out-of-pocket costs. Model efficacy inputs for cannabis were adapted from clinical trial data. Adverse event rates were derived from a prospective study of cannabis for chronic noncancer pain and applied to probability inputs for conventional therapies. Cannabis cost was derived from retail market pricing. Parameter uncertainty was addressed with one-way and probabilistic sensitivity analysis.

Results : Adding cannabis to first-line therapy was incrementally less effective and costlier than adding cannabis to second-line and third-line therapies. Third-line adjunctive cannabis was subject to extended dominance, that is, the second-line strategy was more effective with a more favorable incremental cost-effectiveness ratio of $48,594 per QALY gained, and therefore, third-line adjunctive cannabis was not as cost-effective. At a modest willingness-to-pay threshold of $100,000/QALY gained, second-line adjunctive cannabis was the strategy most likely to be cost-effective.

Conclusion : As recently proposed willingness-to-pay thresholds for the United States health marketplace range from $110,000 to $300,000 per QALY, cannabis appears cost-effective when augmenting second-line treatment for painful neuropathy. Further research is warranted to explore the long-term benefit of smoked cannabis and standardization of its dosing for chronic neuropathic pain.

Keywords : cost-effectiveness; medical marijuana; painful neuropathy; diabetic neuropathy; HIV neuropathy




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