• Article

Re-engineering methadone-cost-effectiveness analysis of a patient-centered approach to methadone treatment

Methadone maintenance treatment has proven effectiveness in the treatment of opioid use disorder, but significant barriers remain to treatment retention. In a randomized clinical trial, 300 newly-admitted methadone patients were randomly assigned to patient-centered methadone (PCM) v. treatment-as-usual (TAU). In PCM, participants were treated under revised program rules which permitted voluntary attendance at counseling and other changes focused on reducing involuntary discharge, and different staff roles which shifted disciplinary responsibility from the participant's counselor to the supervisor. The study found no significant differences in treatment retention, measures of opioid use, or other patient outcomes. This paper employs an activity-based costing approach to estimate the cost and cost-effectiveness of the two study conditions. We found that service use and costs were similar between PCM and TAU. Specifically, the average cost for PCM patients was $2396 compared to $2292 for standard methadone, while the average length of stay was 2 weeks longer for PCM patients. Incremental cost-effectiveness ratios (ICER) for self-reported heroin use, opioid positive urine screens, and meeting DSM-IV criteria for opioid dependence were mixed, with TAU achieving non-significantly better outcomes at lower treatment episode costs (i.e., economically dominating) for opioid positive urine screens. PCM patients reported slightly more days abstinent from heroin and fewer meet the opioid dependence criteria. While these differences are small and not statistically significant, we can still examine the cost-effectiveness implications. For days, abstinent from heroin, the ICER was $242 for one additional day of abstinence, however, there was notable uncertainty around this estimate. For opioid dependence criteria, the ICER was $1160 for a one percentage point increase in the probability that a participant no longer met criteria for opioid dependence at follow-up. This economic study finds that patient choice concepts can be introduced into methadone treatment without significant impacts on costs or patient outcomes.


Dunlap, L. J., Zarkin, G. A., Orme, S., Meinhofer, A., Kelly, S. M., O'Grady, K. E., ... Schwartz, R. P. (2018). Re-engineering methadone-cost-effectiveness analysis of a patient-centered approach to methadone treatment. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 94, 81-90. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsat.2018.07.014