DALLAS (FRONTLINE MEDICAL NEWS) – If betamethasone became a routine part of managing women at risk for late preterm birth, the U.S. health care system could save up to $200 million in direct costs every year.

A significant decrease in the cost of managing newborn respiratory morbidity would account for most of the savings, Cynthia Gyamfi-Bannerman, MD , said at the meeting sponsored by the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine. Not only was betamethasone treatment cost effective at its base price, but treatment retained economic dominance over no treatment even when its cost was inflated up to 500%.

“Administration of betamethasone significantly reduced health care costs and was cost-effective across most of our models,” said Dr. Gyamfi-Bannerman of Columbia University, New York. “If providers routinely gave betamethasone to at-risk pregnant women, we could save an estimated $200 million per year in the U.S. alone.”

She presented a cost analysis of the 2016 PARENT trial. PARENT randomized 2,831 women at risk of late preterm delivery to two injections of betamethasone or matching placebo 24 hours apart. Infants exposed to betamethasone were 20% less likely to experience the primary endpoint – a composite of the need for continuous positive airway pressure or high-flow nasal cannula, supplemental oxygen, extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, or mechanical ventilation. They were also significantly less likely to be stillborn or to die within 72 hours of delivery.

“We found that antenatal betamethasone significantly decreased perinatal morbidity and mortality,” she said. “However, the costs of this intervention were unknown. Therefore, we compared the cost-effectiveness of treatment with no treatment in these women.”

Dr. Gyamfi-Bannerman described the study as a cost-minimization analysis. “The analysis took a third-party payer approach with a time horizon to first hospital discharge to home.”

Maternal costs were based on Medicaid rates. These included the cost of the betamethasone, and any out- or inpatient visits necessary to administer the drug. The neonatal costs included all direct medical costs for the newborn, including neonatal ICU admissions and any respiratory therapy the infant required.

The analysis included all mother-infant pairs in PARENT who had at least one dose of their assigned study drug and full follow-up. This comprised 1,425 pairs who received betamethasone and 1,396 who received placebo. The total mean cost of maternal/newborn care in the betamethasone group was $4,774, compared with $5,473 in the placebo group – a significant difference.

The cost-effectiveness analysis, with effectiveness defined as the proportion not reaching the primary outcome, significantly favored betamethasone as well (88.4% vs. 85.5%).

Dr. Gyamfi-Bannerman also examined cost-effectiveness in a variety of pricing scenarios, from looking at betamethasone at its base cost with hospital and physician services priced at 50% of the current level, to betamethasone inflated by 500% and other costs by 200%.

“In almost every estimate, betamethasone remained the cost-effective management option,” she said. “Administration of antenatal betamethasone to women at risk of late preterm birth significantly decreased health care costs and was cost effective across most of our variable estimate.”

She had no financial disclosures.

SOURCE: Gyamfi-Bannerman C et al. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2018;218:S14 .