Objective: To estimate the cost-effectiveness of treating nicotine dependence, expressed as cost per net year of life gained by smoking cessation.
Design: A cost-effectiveness analysis was conducted of a cohort of consecutive adult patients treated for nicotine dependence from April 1988 through December 1992 at the Mayo Clinic Nicotine Dependence Center (NDC).
Material and methods: The study cohort consisted of 5,544 patients (50.8% female; mean age, 47.8 years) with a mean baseline smoking rate of 25.4 cigarettes per day. After an initial consultation, a nonphysician counselor developed an individual nicotine dependence treatment plan, which could include follow-up counseling, nicotine replacement therapy (patches or gum), group therapy, or an inpatient program. A relapse-prevention program included telephone calls and a series of letters to the patient. We computed the years of life gained for each person specific to age, gender, smoking rate at entry, and 6-month smoking status by using published mortality rates for current and former cigarette smokers. The 6-month smoking status was assumed to be applicable at 1 year. For subsequent determinations, we modeled by computer simulation the year-by-year (to age 100) smoking status by using published relapse and late cessation rates. Coupled with treatment costs, this information allowed the expression of cost per net year of life gained by stopping smoking. Net years of life gained, discounted 0, 3, and 5%, were computed with use of cessation and relapse rates expected for patients not seen in the NDC. Treatment costs were based on 1993 rates for the intervention services but did not include any tobacco product cost savings associated with smoking cessation.
Results: The 1-year smoking-cessation rate was 22.2%. With all NDC patients included, the estimated net years of life gained, with use of a 5% rate of discount for benefits, was 0.058, and the corresponding cost was $6,828 per net year of life gained.
Conclusion: In comparison with the cost-effectiveness of other medical services, the cost of $6,828 per net year of life gained by treatment of nicotine dependence is relatively inexpensive. Such cost-outcome data are important as economic considerations are applied for optimal allocation of limited health-care resources. Nonphysician health-care professionals can assume a key role in the provision of cost-effective nicotine dependence intervention.