Objectives. We sought to evaluate 1) the cost-effectiveness of amiodarone therapy in postinfarction patients; and 2) the influence of alternative diagnostic strategies (noninvasive only vs. noninvasive and electrophysiologic testing) on survival benefit and cost-effectiveness ratio of amiodarone therapy. Background. The cost-effectiveness of amiodarone therapy in postinfarction patients is still unknown, and no study has determined which diagnostic strategy should be used to maximize amiodarone survival benefit while improving its cost-effectiveness ratio. Methods. We designed a postinfarction scenario wherein heart rate variability analysis on 24-h Holter monitoring was used as a screening test for 2-year amiodarone therapy in a cohort of survivors (mean age 57 years) of a recent myocardial infarction. Three different therapeutic strategies were compared: 1) no amiodarone; 2) amiodarone in patients with depressed heart rate variability; 3) amiodarone in patients with depressed heart rate variability and a positive programmed ventricular stimulation. Total variable costs and quality-adjusted life expectancy during a 20-year period were predicted with use of a Markov simulation model. Costs and charges were calculated with reference to an Italian and American hospital. Results. Amiodarone therapy in patients with depressed heart rate variability and a positive programmed ventricular stimulation was dominated by a blend of the two alternatives. Compared with the no-treatment strategy, the incremental cost-effectiveness ratio of amiodarone therapy in patients with depressed heart rate variability was $10,633 and $39,422 per gained quality-adjusted life-year using Italian costs and American charges, respectively. Conclusions. Compared with a noninterventional option, amiodarone prescription in all patients with depressed heart rate variability seems to be a more appropriate approach than the alternative based on the combined use of heart rate variability and electrophysiologic study.
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