Over the last decade, the number of health economic evaluations has increased substantially in the field of child psychiatry. The objective of the present paper is to offer an overview of economic evaluations of child psychiatric drug treatment. Major electronic databases, as well as abstract booklets from international clinical and health economics conferences with an external peer review process, were examined to search for comparative economic evaluations of child and adolescent psychiatric drug treatment. Most studies of pharmacotreatment were cost effectiveness analyses (CEAs) concerned with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Three evaluations were done by or on behalf of agencies as part of ADHD-related health technology assessments. A number of economic studies used patient-level data from specific randomized clinical trials, especially the NIMH-initiated MTA (in childhood ADHD) and TADS (in adolescent major depression) studies. Almost all studies relied on narrow scale symptom scales to assess effects of treatment, even when quality-adjusted life years (QALYs) were reported. In many cases, effectiveness data came from short-term studies, and extrapolation to a one-year time horizon was usually based on assumptions. Even those evaluations attempting to address longer time horizons by way of modeling did not include the impact of treatment on long-term sequelae of the conditions studied, mainly due to a paucity of robust clinical data. Nevertheless, currently available health economic evaluations broadly suggest an acceptable to attractive cost effectiveness of medication management of ADHD, whereas there is no such evidence for child psychiatric disorders other than ADHD.
Keywords: Economic evaluation, cost effectiveness analysis, cost utility analysis, quality-adjusted life year (QALY), cost benefit analysis, health technology assessment, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), depression, pharmacoeconomics
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