Study design: Economic evaluation from a societal perspective conducted alongside a randomized controlled trial with a follow-up of 52 weeks.
Objective: To evaluate the cost effectiveness and cost utility of an intensive group training protocol compared with usual care physiotherapy in patients with nonspecific chronic low back pain. The intensive group training protocol combines exercise therapy, back school, and behavioral principles.
Summary of background data: Two studies found a significant reduction in absenteeism for a graded activity program in occupational health care. This program has not yet been evaluated in a primary care physiotherapy setting.
Methods: Participating physical therapists in primary care recruited 114 patients with chronic nonspecific low back pain. Eligible patients were randomized to either the protocol group or the guideline group. Outcome measures included functional status (Roland Morris Disability Questionnaire), pain intensity (11-point numerical rating scale), general perceived effect and quality of life (EuroQol-5D). Cost data were measured with cost diaries and included direct and indirect costs related to low back pain.
Results: After 52 weeks, the direct health care costs were significantly higher for patients in the protocol group, largely due to the costs of the intervention. The mean difference in total costs amounted to [Euro sign] 233 (95% confidence interval: [Euro sign] -2.185; [Euro sign] 2.764). The cost-effectiveness planes indicated no significant differences in cost effectiveness between the 2 groups.
Conclusion: The results of this economic evaluation showed no difference in total costs between the protocol group and the guideline group. The differences in effects were small and not statistically significant. At present, national implementation of the protocol is not recommended.