Healthcare Resource Utilization and Costs of Steroid-Associated Complications in Patients With Graft-Versus-Host Disease

Elizabeth J. Bell, Jingbo Yu, Valkal Bhatt, Scott H. Bunner, Lincy S. Lal, John Galvin, Daniel Weisdorf

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Acute and chronic graft-versus-host disease (aGVHD/cGVHD) are serious conditions occurring after allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation (HCT). Steroids are the most common first-line therapy; however, they are frequently associated with numerous morbid complications. To describe the healthcare resource utilization (HCRU) and costs of steroid-related complications in patients receiving systemic steroids for GVHD. This retrospective study used medical and pharmacy claims from the Optum Research database. Eligible patients were diagnosed with GVHD (aGVHD, cGVHD, or both) after HCT and were treated with systemic steroids between July 1, 2010, and August 31, 2019. The index date was the date of the first claim for systemic steroids after GVHD diagnosis. The baseline period was the 6 months before the index date, and the follow-up period was 2 years after the index date. Outcome variables included HCRU and costs associated with steroid complications, grouped into 4 categories: bone/muscle, gastrointestinal, infection, and metabolic/endocrine. A multivariate analysis was used to assess the cost ratio associated with the presence of each steroid complication; the linear model was adjusted for baseline patient characteristics and types of steroid conditions identified during follow-up. Another multivariate analysis assessed the hazard ratio for hospitalization associated with each steroid complication using a Cox proportional hazards regression model adjusted for the time-varying presence of each complication category. A total of 689 patients were studied (median age, 55 years; male, 60%); 22% had aGVHD only, 21% had cGVHD only, and 39% had both types of GVHD. After 2 years of follow-up, 97% had at least 1 steroid-associated complication. The most common complication category was infection (79.5%), followed by metabolic/endocrine (32.4%), gastrointestinal (29.2%), and bone/muscle conditions (19.7%). About two thirds (66%) of patients with any steroid complication had ≥1 hospitalization requiring a median (interquartile range [IQR]) of 20 (8–43) hospital days. Patients with an infection experienced the highest hospitalization rate (72%) and thus the highest associated costs. The total mean (median [IQR]) healthcare cost potentially related to steroid complications was $164,787 ($50,834 [$8865–$182,693]), and the largest expense was hospitalization (mean [median {IQR}], $140,637 [$26,782 {$0–$141,398}]). Of the different steroid complications, infections were associated with the highest cost (mean [median {IQR}], $167,473 [$57,680 {$16,261–$178,698}]). In addition, a significantly higher total adjusted cost was associated with the presence of an infection, gastrointestinal complication, or bone/muscle complication in patients with GVHD versus the absence of each complication (all P < .001). Complications occurring after steroid treatment for GVHD may add substantially to the HCRU and costs associated with GVHD management. Infections in particular required inpatient care and were associated with the highest economic burden.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)707.e1-707.e7
JournalTransplantation and Cellular Therapy
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Medical writing assistance was provided by Vicky Kanta, PhD, ICON plc, Blue Bell, PA. EJB, SHB, LSL, JY, VB, DW, and JG all contributed to the design of the study, interpretation of analyses, and drafting or revising the manuscript. SHB additionally conducted data analysis. Financial disclosure: Supported by Incyte Corporation. Conflict of interest statement: EJB, SHB, and LSL are employees of Optum, Inc. a paid consultant of Incyte Corporation. JY, VB, and JG are employees and stockholders of Incyte Corporation. DW has received research support from Incyte Corporation and support as a consultant from Pharmacyclics and FATE. Financial disclosure: See Acknowledgments on page 707.e6.

Funding Information:
Financial disclosure: Supported by Incyte Corporation.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022


  • Complications
  • Corticosteroids
  • Graft-versus-host disease
  • Healthcare costs
  • Hematopoietic cell transplantation


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