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Cost and cost-effectiveness of standard methadone maintenance treatment compared to enriched 180-day methadone detoxification.


AIMS: To compare the cost and cost-effectiveness of methadone maintenance treatment and 180-day methadone detoxification enriched with psychosocial services. DESIGN: Randomized controlled study conducted from May 1995 to April 1999. SETTING: Research clinic in an established drug treatment program. PARTICIPANTS: One hundred and seventy-nine adults with diagnosed opioid dependence. Intervention Patients were randomized to methadone maintenance (n = 91), which required monthly 1 hour/week of psychosocial therapy during the first 6 months or 180-day detoxification (n = 88), which required 3 hours/week of psychosocial therapy and 14 education sessions during the first 6 months. MEASUREMENTS: Total health-care costs and self-reported injection drug use. A two-state Markov model was used to estimate quality-adjusted years of survival. Findings Methadone maintenance produced significantly greater reductions in illicit opioid use than 180-day detoxification during the last 6 months of treatment. Total health-care costs were greater for maintenance than detoxification treatment ($7564 versus $6687; P < 0.001). Although study costs were significantly higher for methadone maintenance than detoxification patients ($4739 versus $2855, P < 0.001), detoxification patients incurred significantly higher costs for substance abuse and mental health care received outside the study. Methadone maintenance may provide a modest survival advantage compared with detoxification. The cost per life-year gained is $16 967. Sensitivity analysis revealed a cost-effectiveness ratio of less than $20 000 per quality-adjusted life-year over a wide range of modeling assumptions. CONCLUSIONS: Compared with enriched detoxification services, methadone maintenance is more effective than enriched detoxification services with a cost-effectiveness ratio within the range of many accepted medical interventions and may provide a survival advantage. Results provide additional support for the use of sustained methadone therapy as opposed to detoxification for treating opioid addiction.

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