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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Systematic review of economic evaluations of human cell-derived wound care products for the treatment of venous leg and diabetic foot ulcers

Astrid Langer12* and Wolf Rogowski2

Author Affiliations

1 Institute of Health Economics and Health Care Management, Munich School of Management, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, Munich, Germany

2 Institute of Health Economics and Health Care Management, Helmholtz Zentrum München, German Research Center for Environmental Health, Neuherberg, Germany

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BMC Health Services Research 2009, 9:115  doi:10.1186/1472-6963-9-115

Published: 10 July 2009

Abstract

Background

Tissue engineering is an emerging field. Novel bioengineered skin substitutes and genetically derived growth factors offer innovative approaches to reduce the burden of diabetic foot and venous leg ulcers for both patients and health care systems. However, they frequently are very costly. Based on a systematic review of the literature, this study assesses the cost-effectiveness of these growth factors and tissue-engineered artificial skin for treating chronic wounds.

Methods

On the basis of an extensive explorative search, an appropriate algorithm for a systematic database search was developed. The following databases were searched: BIOSIS Previews, CRD databases, Cochrane Library, EconLit, Embase, Medline, and Web of Science. Only completed and published trial- or model-based studies which contained a full economic evaluation of growth factors and bioengineered skin substitutes for the treatment of chronic wounds were included. Two reviewers independently undertook the assessment of study quality. The relevant studies were assessed by a modified version of the Consensus on Health Economic Criteria (CHEC) list and a published checklist for evaluating model-based economic evaluations.

Results

Eleven health economic evaluations were included. Three biotechnology products were identified for which topical growth factors or bioengineered skin substitutes for the treatment of chronic leg ulceration were economically assessed: (1) Apligraf®, a bilayered living human skin equivalent indicated for the treatment of diabetic foot and venous leg ulcers (five studies); (2) Dermagraft®, a human fibroblast-derived dermal substitute, which is indicated only for use in the treatment of full-thickness diabetic foot ulcers (one study); (3) REGRANEX® Gel, a human platelet-derived growth factor for the treatment of deep neuropathic diabetic foot ulcers (five studies). The studies considered in this review were of varying and partly low methodological quality. They calculated that due to shorter treatment periods, fewer complications and fewer inpatient episodes the initial cost of the novel biotechnology products may be offset, making the treatment cost-effective or even cost-saving. The results of most studies were sensitive to initial costs of the products and the evidence of effectiveness.

Conclusion

The study results suggest that some growth factors and tissue-engineered artificial skin products feature favourable cost-effectiveness ratios in selected patient groups with chronic wounds. Despite the limitations of the studies considered, it is evident that health care providers and coverage decision makers should take not only the high cost of the biotechnology product but the total cost of care into account when deciding about the appropriate allocation of their financial resources. However, not only the cost-effectiveness but first of all the effectiveness of these novel biotechnology products deserve further research.