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Open Access Research article

Cost-effectiveness of oral alitretinoin in patients with severe chronic hand eczema - a long-term analysis from a Swiss perspective

Patricia R Blank1, Armin A Blank2 and Thomas D Szucs3*

Author Affiliations

1 Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine, University of Zurich, Hirschengraben 84, 8001 Zurich, Switzerland

2 Dermatology FMH, Schifflaende 24, 8001 Zurich, Switzerland

3 ECPM Institute of Pharmaceutical Medicine, University of Basel, Klingelbergstrasse 61, 4056 Basel, Switzerland

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BMC Dermatology 2010, 10:4  doi:10.1186/1471-5945-10-4

Published: 25 June 2010



The impact on patients suffering from chronic hand eczema (CHE) is enormous, as no licensed systemic treatment option with proven efficacy for CHE is available. Alitretinoin is a novel agent which showed high clinical efficacy in patients with severe, refractory CHE. We assessed the cost-effectiveness of alitretinoin for CHE patient treatment from a Swiss third party payer perspective. A further objective of this study was to determine the burden of disease in Switzerland.


A long-term Markov cohort simulation model was used to estimate direct medical costs (€) and clinical effectiveness (quality adjusted life years, QALYs) of treating severe CHE patients with alitretinoin. Comparison was against the standard treatment of supportive care (optimised emollient therapy). Information on response rates were derived from a randomized controlled clinical trial. Costs were considered from the perspective of the Swiss health system. Swiss epidemiological data was derived from official Swiss Statistic institutions.


Annual costs of alitretinoin treatment accounted for €2'212. After a time horizon of 22.4 years, average remaining long-term costs accounted for €42'208 or €38'795 in the alitretinoin and the standard treatment arm, respectively. Compared with the standard therapy, the addition of alitretinoin yielded an average gain of 0.230 QALYs at the end of the simulation. Accordingly, the incremental cost-effectiveness ratio resulted in €14'816/QALY gained. These results were robust to changes in key model assumptions.


The therapy for CHE patients is currently insufficient. In our long-term model we identified the treatment with alitretinoin as a cost-effective alternative for the therapy of CHE patients in Switzerland.