Cost-utility analysis of esketamine and electroconvulsive therapy in adults with treatment-resistant depression

BMC Psychiatry. 2021 Dec 7;21(1):610. doi: 10.1186/s12888-021-03601-8.


Background: Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) has long been used for treating individuals with treatment-resistant depression (TRD). Esketamine has recently emerged as a new treatment for TRD due to its rapid antidepressant effects. To further inform the decision regarding choice of treatment, this paper aims to evaluate whether ECT or esketamine is the more cost-effective option.

Methods: The cost-effectiveness was derived as cost per quality-adjusted life-year (QALY) using a Markov model from a societal and life-time perspective. The incremental cost-effectiveness ratio (ICER) was calculated. Health states included different depression and remission states and death. Data to populate the model was derived from randomised controlled trials and other research. Various sensitivity analyses were carried out to test the robustness of the model.

Results: The base case scenario shows that ECT is cost-effective compared to esketamine and yields more QALYs at a lower cost. The sensitivity analysis shows that ECT is cost-effective in all scenarios and ECT dominates esketamine in 12 scenarios.

Conclusions: This study found that, from a cost-effectiveness point of view, ECT should be the first-hand option for individuals with TRD, when other first line treatments have failed. Considering the lack of economic evaluation of ECT and esketamine, this study is of great value to decision makers.

Keywords: Cost-effectiveness; Electroconvulsive therapy; Esketamine; ICER; Markov model; QALY; Treatment-resistant depression.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Depression
  • Electroconvulsive Therapy*
  • Humans
  • Ketamine* / therapeutic use
  • Quality-Adjusted Life Years


  • Esketamine
  • Ketamine