Cost-effectiveness of pembrolizumab for the adjuvant treatment of resected high-risk stage III melanoma in the United States

Journal of Medical Economics, 2019


To evaluate the cost-effectiveness of adjuvant pembrolizumab relative to observation alone following complete resection of high-risk stage III melanoma with lymph node involvement, from a US health system perspective. 

Materials and methods

A Markov cohort model with four health states (recurrence-free, locoregional recurrence, distant metastases, and death) was developed to estimate costs, life-years, and quality-adjusted life-years (QALYs) associated with pembrolizumab vs observation over a lifetime (46-year) horizon. Using a parametric multi-state modeling approach, transition probabilities starting from recurrence-free were estimated based on patient-level data from KEYNOTE-054 (NCT02362594), a direct head-to-head phase 3 trial. Post-recurrence transition probabilities were informed by real-world retrospective data and clinical trials in advanced melanoma. Health state utilities and adverse event-related disutility were derived from KEYNOTE-054 trial data and published literature. Costs of drug acquisition and administration, adverse events, disease management, and terminal care were estimated in 2018 US dollars. Deterministic and probabilistic sensitivity analyses were conducted to assess robustness.


Over a lifetime horizon, adjuvant pembrolizumab and observation were associated with total QALYs of 9.24 and 5.95, total life-years of 10.54 and 7.15, and total costs of $489,820 and $440,431, respectively. The resulting incremental cost-effectiveness ratios (ICERs) for pembrolizumab vs observation were $15,009/QALY and $14,550/life-year. Across the range of input values and assumptions tested in deterministic sensitivity analyses, pembrolizumab ranged from being a dominant strategy to having an ICER of $57,449/QALY vs observation. The ICER was below a willingness-to-pay threshold of $100,000/QALY in 90.2% of probabilistic simulations.


Long-term extrapolation of outcomes was based on interim results from KEYNOTE-054, with a median follow-up of 15 months. 


Based on common willingness-to-pay benchmarks, pembrolizumab is highly cost-effective compared with observation alone for the adjuvant treatment of completely resected stage III melanoma in the US.

View abstract


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