Cost-effectiveness of an internet-delivered treatment for substance abuse: Data from a multisite randomized controlled trial.

Research paper by Sean M SM Murphy, Aimee N C AN Campbell, Udi E UE Ghitza, Tiffany L TL Kyle, Genie L GL Bailey, Edward V EV Nunes, Daniel D Polsky

Indexed on: 18 Feb '16Published on: 18 Feb '16Published in: Drug and Alcohol Dependence


Substance misuse and excessive alcohol consumption are major public health issues. Internet-based interventions for substance use disorders (SUDs) are a relatively new method for addressing barriers to access and supplementing existing care. This study examines cost-effectiveness in a multisite, randomized trial of an internet-based version of the community reinforcement approach (CRA) with contingency management (CM) known as the Therapeutic Education System (TES).Economic evaluation of the 12-week trial with follow-up at 24 and 36 weeks. 507 individuals who were seeking therapy for alcohol or other substance use disorders at 10 outpatient community-based treatment programs were recruited and randomized to either treatment as usual (TAU) or TES+TAU. Sub-analyses were completed on participants with a poorer prognosis (i.e., those not abstinent at study entry).From the provider's perspective, TES+TAU as it was implemented in this study costs $278 (SE=87) more than TAU alone after 12 weeks. The quality-adjusted life years gained by TES+TAU and TAU were similar; however, TES+TAU has at least a 95% chance of being considered cost-effective for providers and payers with willingness-to-pay thresholds as low as $20,000 per abstinent year. Findings for the subgroup not abstinent at study entry are slightly more favorable.With regard to the clinical outcome of abstinence, our cost-effectiveness findings of TES+TAU compare favorably to those found elsewhere in the CM literature. The analyses performed here serve as an initial economic framework for future studies integrating technology into SUD therapy.