Cost-Effectiveness of Antiviral Treatments for Pandemics and Outbreaks of Respiratory Illnesses, Including COVID-19: A Systematic Review of Published Economic Evaluations



To review published economic evaluations of antiviral treatment for pandemics and outbreaks of respiratory illnesses.


We conducted a systematic review to identify economic evaluations of antiviral treatment for pandemics and outbreaks of respiratory illnesses, including coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). We searched Medline (EBSCOhost), EMBASE (Ovid), EconLit (Ovid), National Health Service Economic Evaluation Database (Ovid), and Health Technology Assessment (Ovid). The search was last rerun on July 5, 2020. Citation tracking and reference checking were used. Only full economic evaluations published as peer-reviewed articles in the last 10 years were included. Studies were quality assessed using the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence economic evaluation checklist.


Overall, 782 records were identified, of which 14 studies met the inclusion criteria. The studies were mostly conducted in high-income countries. All were model-based. Seven (50%) were cost-utility analyses, 4 (28.6%) were cost-effectiveness analyses, 2 (14.3%) were cost-consequences analyses, and 1 (7.1%) was a cost-benefit analysis. Strategies including antiviral treatment were found to be either cost-saving or cost-effective, at the study-specific willingness-to-pay thresholds. Empirical treatment was more cost-effective than test-guided treatment for young adults but less so for older adults.


Antiviral treatment for managing pandemics and outbreaks of respiratory illnesses that have very high case fatality rate, similar to COVID-19 pandemic, are likely to be cost-effective either as a standalone intervention or part of a multifaceted strategy. Investing in the development of such curative treatments and promptly evaluating their cost-effectiveness, relative to other strategies in use at the time of their introduction should be the focus going forward to inform resource allocation decisions particularly in low- and middle-income countries.


Dalia M. Dawoud Khaled Y. Soliman

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