Economic Evaluations of Opioid Use Disorder Interventions

Pharmacoeconomics. 2016 Sep;34(9):863-87. doi: 10.1007/s40273-016-0400-5.


Background: The economic costs associated with opioid misuse are immense. Effective interventions for opioid use disorders are available; however, given the scarce resources faced by substance use treatment providers and payers of all kinds, evidence of effectiveness is not always sufficient to encourage adoption of a given therapy-nor should it be. Economic evaluations can provide evidence that will help stakeholders efficiently allocate their resources.

Objective: The purpose of this study was to review the literature on economic evaluations of opioid use disorder interventions.

Methods: We performed a systematic review of the major electronic databases from inception until August 2015. A sensitive approach was used to ensure a comprehensive list of relevant articles. Given the quality of the existing reviews, we narrowed our search to studies published since 2007. The Drummond checklist was used to evaluate and categorize economic evaluation studies according to their quality.

Results: A total of 98 articles were identified as potentially relevant to the current study. Of these 98 articles, half (n = 49) were included in this study. Six of the included articles were reviews. The remaining 43 articles reported economic evaluation studies of interventions for opioid use disorders. In general, the evidence on methadone maintenance therapy (MMT) supports previous findings that MMT is an economically advantageous opioid use disorder therapy. The economic literature comparing MMT with other opioid use disorder pharmacotherapies is limited, as is the literature on other forms of therapy.

Conclusion: With the possible exception of MMT, additional high-quality economic evaluations are needed in order to assess the relative value of existing opioid use disorder interventions.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Humans
  • Methadone / administration & dosage*
  • Methadone / economics
  • Opiate Substitution Treatment / economics
  • Opiate Substitution Treatment / methods*
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / economics
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / rehabilitation*
  • Research Design


  • Methadone