Costs of addressing heroin addiction in Malaysia and 32 comparable countries worldwide

Health Serv Res. 2012 Apr;47(2):865-87. doi: 10.1111/j.1475-6773.2011.01335.x. Epub 2011 Oct 18.


Objective: Develop and apply new costing methodologies to estimate costs of opioid dependence treatment in countries worldwide.

Data sources/study setting: Micro-costing methodology developed and data collected during randomized controlled trial (RCT) involving 126 patients (July 2003-May 2005) in Malaysia. Gross-costing methodology developed to estimate costs of treatment replication in 32 countries with data collected from publicly available sources.

Study design: Fixed, variable, and societal cost components of Malaysian RCT micro-costed and analytical framework created and employed for gross-costing in 32 countries selected by three criteria relative to Malaysia: major heroin problem, geographic proximity, and comparable gross domestic product (GDP) per capita.

Principal findings: Medication, and urine and blood testing accounted for the greatest percentage of total costs for both naltrexone (29-53 percent) and buprenorphine (33-72 percent) interventions. In 13 countries, buprenorphine treatment could be provided for under $2,000 per patient. For all countries except United Kingdom and Singapore, incremental costs per person were below $1,000 when comparing buprenorphine to naltrexone. An estimated 100 percent of opiate users in Cambodia and Lao People's Democratic Republic could be treated for $8 and $30 million, respectively.

Conclusions: Buprenorphine treatment can be provided at low cost in countries across the world. This study's new costing methodologies provide tools for health systems worldwide to determine the feasibility and cost of similar interventions.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Buprenorphine / economics
  • Buprenorphine / therapeutic use
  • Cambodia
  • Cost of Illness
  • Drug Costs / statistics & numerical data
  • Gross Domestic Product / statistics & numerical data
  • Health Care Costs / statistics & numerical data*
  • Heroin Dependence / drug therapy
  • Heroin Dependence / economics*
  • Heroin Dependence / therapy
  • Humans
  • Laos
  • Malaysia
  • Naltrexone / economics
  • Naltrexone / therapeutic use
  • Narcotic Antagonists / economics
  • Narcotic Antagonists / therapeutic use


  • Narcotic Antagonists
  • Buprenorphine
  • Naltrexone