Background and objective
Alzheimer’s disease or dementia can impose a significant burden on family and other informal caregivers. This study investigated how the inclusion of family/informal caregiver spillover effects in a cost-utility analysis may influence the reported value of Alzheimer’s disease/dementia interventions.
We used PubMed to identify Alzheimer’s disease or dementia cost-utility analyses published from 1 January, 2000 to 31 March, 2018. We reviewed and abstracted information from each study using a two-reader consensus process. We investigated the frequency and methods in which family/caregiver spillover costs and health effects were incorporated into cost-utility analyses, and examined how their inclusion may influence the reported incremental cost-effectiveness ratios.
Of 63 Alzheimer’s disease/dementia cost-utility analyses meeting inclusion criteria, 44 (70%) considered at least some family/caregiver spillover costs or health effects. Thirty-two studies incorporated spillover costs only, two incorporated spillover health effects only, and ten incorporated both. The most common approach for accounting for spillover was adding informal caregiving time costs to patient costs (n = 36) and adding informal caregiver quality-adjusted life-years to patient values (n = 7). In a subset of 33 incremental cost-effectiveness ratio pairs from 19 studies, incorporating spillover outcomes made incremental cost-effectiveness ratios more favorable (n = 15; 45%) or kept the intervention cost saving (n = 13; 39%) in most cases. In fewer cases, including spillover increased incremental cost-effectiveness ratios (n = 2; 6%), kept the intervention dominated [more costs/less quality-adjusted life-years] (n = 2; 6%), or changed incremental cost-effectiveness ratio from dominated to less cost/less quality-adjusted life-years (n = 1; 3%). In 11 cases (33%), adding spillover effects into analyses resulted in a lower incremental cost-effectiveness ratio that crossed a common cost-effectiveness threshold, which could have downstream implications for programs or policies that are adopted based on cost-effectiveness analysis results.
Most Alzheimer’s disease/dementia cost-utility analyses incorporated spillover costs, often as caregiver time costs, but considered spillover health impacts less often. In about 85% of the analyses, including Alzheimer’s disease/dementia spillover cost or health effects decreased incremental cost-effectiveness ratios or kept the intervention cost saving. The broader value of an Alzheimer’s disease/dementia intervention to society may in some cases be underestimated without considering these spillover effects on family and informal caregivers.