Objectives: To determine the healthcare costs associated with treatment of alcohol dependence with medications versus no medication and across the 4 medications approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Study design: Retrospective claims database analysis.
Methods: Eligible adults with alcohol dependence were identified from a large US health plan and the IMS PharMetrics Integrated Database. Data included all medical and pharmacy claims at all available healthcare sites. Propensity score-based matching and inverse probability weighting were applied to baseline demographic, clinical, and healthcare utilization variables for 20,752 patients, half of whom used an FDA-approved medication for alcohol dependence. A similar comparison was performed among 15,502 patients treated with an FDA-approved medication: oral acamprosate calcium (n = 8958), oral disulfiram (n = 3492), oral naltrexone (NTX) hydrochloride (n = 2391), or extended-release injectable naltrexone (XR-NTX; n = 661). Analyses calculated 6-month treatment persistence, utilization, and paid claims for: alcoholism medications, detoxification and rehabilitation, alcohol-related and nonrelated inpatient admissions, outpatient services, and total costs.
Results: Medication was associated with fewer admissions of all types. Despite higher costs for medications, total healthcare costs, including inpatient, outpatient, and pharmacy costs, were 30% lower for patients who received a medication for their alcohol dependence. XR-NTX was associated with greater refill persistence and fewer hospitalizations for any reason and lower hospital costs than any of the oral medications. Despite higher costs for XR-NTX itself, total healthcare costs were not significantly different from oral NTX or disulfiram, and were 34% lower than with acamprosate.
Conclusion: In this largest cost study to date of alcohol pharmacotherapy, patients who received medication had lower healthcare utilization and total costs than patients who did not. XR-NTX showed an advantage over oral medications in treatment persistence and healthcare utilization, at comparable or lower total cost.