• Article

Revisiting the cost-effectiveness of the COMBINE study for alcohol dependent patients The patient perspective

OBJECTIVE: Most cost and cost-effectiveness studies of substance abuse treatments focus on the costs to the provider/payer. Although this perspective is important, the costs incurred by patients should also be considered when evaluating treatment. This article presents estimates of patients' costs associated with the Combined Pharmacotherapies and Behavioral Interventions (COMBINE) alcohol treatments and evaluates the treatments' cost-effectiveness from the patient perspective.

STUDY DESIGN: A prospective cost-effectiveness study of patients in COMBINE, a randomized controlled clinical trial of 9 alternative alcohol treatment regimens involving 1383 patients with diagnoses of primary alcohol dependence across 11 US clinic sites. We followed a microcosting approach that allowed estimation of patients' costs for specific COMBINE treatment activities. The primary clinical outcomes from COMBINE are used as indicators of treatment effectiveness.

RESULTS: The average total patient time devoted to treatment ranged from about 30 hours to 46 hours. Time spent traveling to and from treatment sessions and participation in self-help meetings accounted for the largest portion of patient time costs. The cost-effectiveness results indicate that 6 of the 9 treatments were economically dominated and only 3 treatments are potentially cost-effective depending on patient's willingness to pay for the considered outcomes: medical management (MM) + placebo, MM + naltrexone, and MM + naltrexone + acamprosate.

CONCLUSIONS: Few studies consider the patient's perspective in estimating costs and cost-effectiveness even though these costs may have a substantial impact on a patient's treatment choice, ability to access treatment, or treatment adherence. For this study, the choice of the most cost-effective treatment depends on the value placed on the outcomes by the patient, and the conclusions drawn by the patient may differ from that of the provider/payer.


Dunlap, L. J., Zarkin, G. A., Bray, J. W., Mills, M., Kivlahan, D. R., McKay, J. R., ... Tonigan, J. S. (2010). Revisiting the cost-effectiveness of the COMBINE study for alcohol dependent patients: The patient perspective. Medical Care, 48(4), 306-313. DOI: 10.1097/MLR.0b013e3181ca3d40