OBJECTIVE: While the evidence base for treatments for adolescent depression is building, little is known about the relative efficiency of such treatments. Treatment costs are a relevant concern given the competing demands on family and health care budgets. The authors evaluated the cost-effectiveness of three active treatments among adolescents with major depressive disorder.
METHOD: Volunteers (N=439) ages 12 to 18 with a primary diagnosis of major depressive disorder participated in a randomized, controlled trial conducted at 13 U.S. academic and community clinics from 2000 to 2004. Subjects included those participants who did not drop out and had evaluable outcome and cost data at 12 weeks (N=369). Subjects were randomly assigned to 12 weeks of either fluoxetine alone (10-40 mg/day), CBT alone, CBT combined with fluoxetine (10-40 mg/day), or placebo (equivalent to 10-40 mg/day). Both placebo and fluoxetine were administered double-blind; CBT alone and CBT in combination with fluoxetine were administered unblinded. Societal cost per unit of improvement on the Children's Depression Rating Scale-Revised and cost per quality-adjusted life year (QALY) were compared.
RESULTS: Results ranged from an incremental cost over placebo of $24,000 per QALY for treatment with fluoxetine to $123,000 per QALY for combination therapy treatment. The cost-effectiveness ratio for CBT treatment was not evaluable due to negative clinical effects. The models were robust on a variety of assumptions.
CONCLUSIONS: Both fluoxetine and combination therapy are at least as cost-effective in the short-term as other treatments commonly used in primary care (using a threshold of $125,000/QALY). Fluoxetine is more cost-effective than combination therapy after 12 weeks of treatment.