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Publication - Professor Alastair Hay

    Economic analysis of oral dexamethasone for symptom relief of sore throat

    the UK TOAST study


    Burns, R, Wolstenholme, J, Jawad, S, Williams, N, Thompson, M, Perera, R, Hay, A, Heneghan, C, Little, P, Moore, M & Hayward, G, 2018, ‘Economic analysis of oral dexamethasone for symptom relief of sore throat: the UK TOAST study’. BMJ Open, vol 8.


    Objectives To undertake an economic analysis assessing the cost-effectiveness of a single dose of oral dexamethasone compared with placebo for the relief of sore throat.

    Design A UK-based, multicentre, two arm, individually randomised, double blind trial.

    Setting and population Adults (≥18 years) with acute sore throat and painful swallowing judged to be infective in origin, recruited and randomised in primary care. Intervention: a single dose of 10 mg oral dexamethasone compared with placebo given at primary care visit.

    Main outcome Incremental cost-effectiveness ratios (ICERs), cost per quality-adjusted symptom resolution using the EuroQol-five dimensions-five levels instrument, were estimated as part of a cost–utility analysis performed on an intention-to-treat cohort adopting a health payers perspective.

    Results Differences in health-related quality of life (HRQoL) over 7 days from baseline and at 24 hours in the dexamethasone compared with the placebo group (2.9% and 2.5% higher, respectively) were observed. After controlling for the baseline HRQoL imbalances, the economic impact of the intervention was not statistically significant: the quality-adjusted life year difference was −0.00005 (95% CI −0.0002 to 0.00011) equivalent to a loss in HRQoL of a half hour in the dexamethasone group. The average cost per patient associated in the dexamethasone and placebo groups in the basecase analysis was £73 and £69, respectively. In the basecase probabilistic analysis, the mean ICER was −£6440 (95% CI −£132 151 to £126 335) and the median ICER was −£304 (IQR-£5816 to £3877); suggesting considerable uncertainty.

    Conclusions and relevance The economic burden associated with sore throat is substantial and was estimated at £2.35 billion to the healthcare services payer based on reported resource use and 2015 UK unit costs. There is considerable uncertainty regarding the cost-effectiveness of a single dose of oral dexamethasone as a treatment strategy and therefore insufficient evidence to support its use in clinical practice.

    Trial registration number ISRCTN17435450; Post-results.

    Full details in the University publications repository