Author(s): Mariani AJ
PURPOSE: We provide a relative cost comparison of medical versus surgical androgen suppressive therapy for prostate cancer. MATERIALS AND METHODS: Comparison is based on a cohort of 96 patients who began androgen suppressive therapy for prostate cancer between 1988 and 1990. Patients were followed until death or the end point of study in June 2000 at which time 15% were alive. Current Medicare orchiectomy reimbursements were compared to 1999 wholesale drug costs. RESULTS: For an individual patient the cost of luteinizing hormone releasing hormone (LH-RH) agonist treatment surpassed the cost of surgery at less than 4.2 to 5.3 months, and for combined androgen blockade (LH-RH agonists and nonsteroidal antiandrogens) at less than 2.7 to 3.4 months. For 5 (5.2%) patients on combined androgen blockade and 6 (6.3%) on LH-RH agonists alone, medical therapy would have had a cost advantage over bilateral orchiectomy. For the androgen suppression cohort the cost of LH-RH agonist treatment was 10.7 to 13.5 times and combined androgen blockade was 17.3 to 20.9 times the cost of bilateral orchiectomy. Urology resource use comparisons are provided. These findings significantly underestimate the cost advantage of surgery. A seventh of the patients were alive at study end point, and prostate specific antigen induced stage shifting and changes in practice patterns resulted in earlier and more frequent androgen suppressive treatment. CONCLUSIONS: Except for patients with short anticipated survivals current medical androgen suppressive treatment options are more costly than bilateral orchiectomy. There is a need for a cost comparable medical option to orchiectomy.