Colonoscopy far more cost-effective against colon cancer than promising Cox II drugs, study predicts

ANN ARBOR, MI A new study gives Americans over 50 one more reason not to put off having a colonoscopy to check for colon cancer and its forerunners. Not only is the screening technique already known to be very good at finding problems, but new data now show it's far more cost-effective for most people than promising cancer-preventing drugs will probably be.

The new study results come from researchers at the University of California, San Francisco and the University of Michigan Health System. They used a computer model to compare the cost-effectiveness of colonoscopy and other colon cancer screening procedures with that of Cox-II inhibitors, a class of drugs currently used against arthritis but also considered promising in preventing colon cancer.

The study looked at both approaches alone and together, for people with an average risk of colon cancer, and for those with a high risk due to family history.

The data, which will be published in the May issue of the American Journal of Medicine, suggest that the drugs are unlikely to be as effective -- dollar-for-dollar -- as colonoscopy in cutting cancer death risk. The finding holds true both for those with average colon cancer risk, and for those with a higher family-linked risk, even if studies now under way around the country show the medications cut cancer risk significantly. Screening plus drugs was most effective, but even more costly.

"Rather than wait to see if a pill can protect you, it makes much more sense to follow the advice that's already out there: Get a colonoscopy every five to ten years according to your risk, because this relatively simple procedure can help save your life," says co-author James Scheiman, M.D., an associate professor of internal medicine at the U-M Medical School.

Scheiman adds that he and his colleagues aren't disputing the potential effectiveness of Cox-II inhibitors like celecoxib (sold as Celebrex) and rofecoxib (sold as Vioxx) in warding

Contact: Kara Gavin
University of Michigan Health System

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