Cost-effectiveness of the faecal immunochemical test at a range of positivity thresholds compared with the guaiac faecal occult blood test in the NHS Bowel Cancer Screening Programme in England
Through the National Health Service (NHS) Bowel Cancer Screening Programme (BCSP), men and women in England aged between 60 and 74 years are invited for colorectal cancer (CRC) screening every 2 years using the guaiac faecal occult blood test (gFOBT). The aim of this analysis was to estimate the cost–utility of the faecal immunochemical test for haemoglobin (FIT) compared with gFOBT for a cohort beginning screening aged 60 years at a range of FIT positivity thresholds.
We constructed a cohort-based Markov state transition model of CRC disease progression and screening. Screening uptake, detection, adverse event, mortality and cost data were taken from BCSP data and national sources, including a recent large pilot study of FIT screening in the BCSP.
Our results suggest that FIT is cost-effective compared with gFOBT at all thresholds, resulting in cost savings and quality-adjusted life years (QALYs) gained over a lifetime time horizon. FIT was cost-saving (p<0.001) and resulted in QALY gains of 0.014 (95% CI 0.012 to 0.017) at the base case threshold of 180 µg Hb/g faeces. Greater health gains and cost savings were achieved as the FIT threshold was decreased due to savings in cancer management costs. However, at lower thresholds, FIT was also associated with more colonoscopies (increasing from 32 additional colonoscopies per 1000 people invited for screening for FIT 180 µg Hb/g faeces to 421 additional colonoscopies per 1000 people invited for screening for FIT 20 µg Hb/g faeces over a 40-year time horizon). Parameter uncertainty had limited impact on the conclusions.
This is the first published economic analysis of FIT screening in England using data directly comparing FIT with gFOBT in the NHS BSCP. These results for a cohort starting screening aged 60 years suggest that FIT is highly cost-effective at all thresholds considered. Further modelling is needed to estimate economic outcomes for screening across all age cohorts simultaneously.