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The Cost Effectiveness of Treatment for Alcoholism: A First Approximation

Harold Holder, Richard Longabaugh, William R. Miller, Anthony V. Rubonis

This study undertakes an analysis of cost effectiveness of alcoholism treatment modalities based upon (1) findings from clinical trials, (2) costs for treatment in settings and/or by providers and (3) recommendations from treatment experts about appropriate settings, providers and treatment events. This analysis, which assumes a prototypic patient, suggests that modalities with the most evidence of effectiveness (based on three or more clinical trials) are not the most expensive. Within this study, total cost of care was negatively related to effectiveness. Modalities categorized as having insufficient evidence of effectiveness (i.e., lacking three or more clinical trials) are in the higher cost categories. The results of this first effort to establish initial cost/effectiveness considerations are intended to stimulate researchers to conduct the types of clinical studies where both cost and effectiveness are carefully measured to increase the scientific basis for future cost/effect policy considerations. The authors expect future clinical studies will revise the results of this initial effort. (J. Stud. Alcohol 52: 517-540, 1991)