Hedvig Norlen, Andrew P. Worth and Silke Gabbert
Compared with traditional animal methods for toxicity testing, in vitro and in silico methods are widely considered to permit a more cost-effective assessment of chemicals. However, how to assess the cost-effectiveness of alternative methods has remained unclear. This paper offers a user-oriented tutorial for applying cost-effectiveness analysis (CEA) to alternative (non-animal) methods. The purpose is to illustrate how CEA facilitates the identification of the alternative method, or the combination of methods, that offers the highest information gain per unit of cost. We illustrate how information gains and costs of single methods and method combinations can be assessed. By using acute oral toxicity as an example, we apply CEA to a set of four in silico methods (ToxSuite, TOPKAT, TEST, ADMET Predictor), one in vitro method (the 3T3 Neutral Red Uptake cytotoxicity assay), and various combinations of these methods. Our results underline that in silico tools are more cost-effective than the in vitro test. Battery combinations of alternative methods, however, do not necessarily outperform single methods, because additional information gains from the battery are easily outweighed by additional costs.