An Economic Evaluation of Pembrolizumab Versus Other Adjuvant Treatment Strategies for Resected High-Risk Stage III Melanoma in the USA

Clinical Drug Investigation, 2020

Background and objective

Over the past 5 years, adjuvant treatment options for surgically resected stage III melanoma have expanded with the introduction of several novel immune checkpoint inhibitors and targeted therapies. Pembrolizumab, a programmed cell death protein 1 inhibitor, received US Food and Drug Administration approval in 2019 for resected high-risk stage III melanoma based on significantly longer recurrence-free survival versus placebo. This study evaluated the cost-effectiveness of pembrolizumab versus other adjuvant treatment strategies for resected high-risk stage III melanoma from a US health system perspective.


A Markov cohort-level model with four states (recurrence-free, locoregional recurrence, distant metastases, death) estimated costs and quality-adjusted life-years (QALYs) for pembrolizumab versus routine observation and other adjuvant comparators: ipilimumab in the overall population; and dabrafenib + trametinib in the BRAF-mutation positive (BRAF+) subgroup. Transition probabilities starting from recurrence-free were estimated through parametric multi-state modeling based on phase 3 KEYNOTE-054 (NCT02362594) trial data for pembrolizumab and observation, and network meta-analyses for other comparators. Post-recurrence transitions were modeled based on electronic medical records data and trials in advanced/metastatic melanoma. Utilities were derived using quality-of-life data from KEYNOTE-054 and literature. Costs of treatment, adverse events, disease management, and terminal care were included.


Over a lifetime, pembrolizumab, ipilimumab, and observation were associated with QALYs of 9.24, 7.09, and 5.95 and total costs of $511,290, $992,721, and $461,422, respectively (2019 US dollars). Pembrolizumab was thus dominant (less costly, more effective) versus ipilimumab, with an incremental cost-effectiveness ratio of $15,155/QALY versus observation. In the BRAF+ subgroup, pembrolizumab dominated dabrafenib + trametinib and observation, decreasing costs by $62,776 and $11,250 and increasing QALYs by 0.93 and 3.10 versus these comparators, respectively. Results were robust in deterministic and probabilistic sensitivity analyses.


As adjuvant treatment for resected stage III melanoma, pembrolizumab was found to be dominant and therefore cost-effective compared with the active comparators ipilimumab and dabrafenib + trametinib. Pembrolizumab increased costs relative to observation in the overall population, with sufficient incremental benefit to be considered cost-effective based on typical willingness-to-pay thresholds.

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Bensimon AG, Zhou ZY, Jenkins M, Song Y, Gao W, Signorovitch J, Krepler C, Scherrer E, Wang J, Aguiar-Ibáñez R