Because diagnosis and treatment are so intimately linked, the pharmacoeconomics of treatment of ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP) is impossible to discuss without discussing the cost-effectiveness of VAP diagnosis. The cost of VAP treatment is more complex than simply drug acquisition and administration costs. The critical factor in cost-effective therapy is the avoidance of inappropriate or ineffective therapy. The second most important benefit of a more accurate diagnostic strategy, such as the use of quantitative cultures, is the ability either to stop or to withhold antibiotics if the quantitative culture is negative. Therefore, the benefit of any diagnostic strategy must be evaluated principally from the aspect of these resultant changes in management. Reassurance or concern about an alternative site of infection or cause of fever will also add to the benefit or cost of more accurate diagnosis of VAP. The baseline antibiotic treatment strategy of the specific intensive care unit (ICU) will determine, to a large degree, the cost of antibiotics and the efficacy of empiric regimens. In the final analysis, pharmacy costs and cost of diagnostic testing for VAP must be based on outcome analysis, including comparison of the more expensive aspects of care, such as mortality, length of mechanical ventilation, and length of ICU stay. (C) 2000 by Excerpta Medica, Inc.
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