Cost-utility analysis of a treatment advice to discontinue inappropriate long-term antidepressant use in primary care

Fam Pract. 2014 Oct;31(5):578-84. doi: 10.1093/fampra/cmu043. Epub 2014 Aug 13.


Background: Antidepressant prescriptions have increased exponentially, burdening health care costs.

Objective: To evaluate the costs and effects of an antidepressant cessation advice in case of inappropriate long-term use in primary care, i.e. long-term usage without a (current) indication.

Methods: A economic evaluation during 1-year follow-up was performed, from a societal perspective, as part of a cluster-randomised controlled clinical trial (PANDA). Costs were assessed using the Trimbos/iMTA questionnaire for costs associated with psychiatric illness. Health-related quality of life was measured using the EuroQol 5D. Outcome was costs per quality adjusted life year (QALY). Missing values were estimated using multiple imputation, bootstrap simulations were performed to address the uncertainty surrounding the incremental cost-effectiveness ratios (ICERs).

Results: There was no difference in average QALYs between the intervention (0.70) and control group (0.72) [difference -0.02 (95% CI -0.05 to 0.10)]. The intervention group, however, was less expensive than the control group (total costs €3636 versus €5267, respectively). Most cost-effectiveness pairs were located in the south-west quadrant of the cost-effectiveness plane, implying the intervention was less effective but also less costly. The ICER of the pooled data was €70,180, meaning that for one QALY lost, €70,180 is saved.

Conclusions: This study shows that an antidepressant cessation advice given to patients (and their FPs) with inappropriate long-term antidepressant usage, albeit not effective, does seem to result in a reduction of societal costs. This reduction in costs is mostly due to reduction of productivity losses, possibly due to patient empowerment and loss of stigma.

Keywords: Antidepressant medication; anxiety; anxiety disorder; depression; health economics.; mood disorder; primary care.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antidepressive Agents / economics*
  • Antidepressive Agents / therapeutic use
  • Anxiety Disorders / drug therapy
  • Correspondence as Topic
  • Cost of Illness*
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Depressive Disorder / drug therapy
  • Female
  • Health Care Costs
  • Humans
  • Inappropriate Prescribing / economics*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Primary Health Care / economics*
  • Primary Health Care / standards
  • Program Evaluation
  • Quality of Life
  • Quality-Adjusted Life Years


  • Antidepressive Agents

Associated data

  • NTR/NTR2032