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A cost-effectiveness analysis of vaginal carbon dioxide laser therapy compared with standard medical therapies for genitourinary syndrome of menopause-associated dyspareunia

      Background

      Topical vaginal estrogen therapy is considered the gold standard treatment for genitourinary syndrome of menopause-associated dyspareunia, but early investigations of energy-based devices show promise for patients with contraindications or those who are refractory to vaginal estrogen cream therapy. Although evaluating safety, efficacy, and long-term outcomes for novel technologies is critically important when new technologies become available to treat unmet healthcare needs, evaluation of the costs of these new technologies compared with existing therapies is also critically important but often understudied.

      Objective

      We sought to perform a cost-effectiveness analysis of 3 therapies for genitourinary syndrome of menopause, including vaginal estrogen therapy, oral ospemifene therapy, and vaginal CO2 laser therapy and determine if vaginal laser therapy is a cost-effective treatment strategy for dyspareunia associated with genitourinary syndrome of menopause.

      Study Design

      An institutional review board–exempt cost-effectiveness analysis was performed by constructing a decision tree using decision analysis software (TreeAge Pro; TreeAge Software, Inc, Williamstown, MA) using integrated empirical data from the published literature. Tornado plots and 1-way and 2-way sensitivity analyses were performed to assess how changes in the model’s input parameters altered the overall outcome of the cost-effectiveness analysis model.

      Results

      All 3 treatment methods were found to be cost-effective below the willingness-to-pay threshold of $50,000.00 per quality-adjusted life year for moderate dyspareunia. The incremental cost-effectiveness ratio for vaginal CO2 laser therapy was $16,372.01 and the incremental cost-effectiveness ratio for ospemifene therapy was $5711.14. Although all 3 treatment strategies were on the efficient frontier, vaginal CO2 laser therapy was the optimal treatment strategy with the highest effectiveness. In a 1-way sensitivity analysis of treatment adherence, vaginal CO2 laser therapy was no longer cost-effective when the adherence fell below 38.8%. Vaginal estrogen cream and ospemifene therapies remained cost-effective treatment strategies at all ranges of adherence. When varying the adherence to 100% for all strategies, oral ospemifene therapy was “dominated” by both vaginal CO2 laser therapy and vaginal estrogen cream therapy. In a 2-way sensitivity analysis of vaginal CO2 laser therapy adherence and vaginal CO2 laser therapy cost, vaginal CO2 laser therapy still remained the optimal treatment strategy at 200% of its current cost ($5554.00) when the adherence was >55%. When the cost fell to 20% of its current cost ($555.40), it was the optimal treatment strategy at all adherence values above 29%.

      Conclusion

      This study showed that vaginal fractional CO2 laser therapy is a cost-effective treatment strategy for dyspareunia associated with GSM, as are both vaginal estrogen and oral ospemifene therapies. In our model, vaginal CO2 laser therapy is the optimal cost-effective treatment strategy, and insurance coverage should be considered for this treatment option if it is proven to be safe and effective in FDA trials.

      Key words

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