Are the second-generation antipsychotics cost-effective? A critical review on the background of different health systems

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Background: Despite clinical advantages over conventional compounds, second-generation antipsychotics are prescribed less frequently in some European countries than in the United States because of their higher acquisition price and the current cost-containment strategies of many European health systems. This has been criticized on the grounds that the higher acquisition costs of the new antipsychotics might be more than outweighed by savings in other fields, e.g., through a reduction in rehospitalizations or indirect costs. Method: In order to create an empirical basis for this discussion, a review of the results of pharmacoeconomic studies (mostly cost-effectiveness studies) comparing second-generation with conventional antipsychotics was undertaken. Results: Of the 35 studies identified, most report at least cost-neutrality of the new antipsychotics (in many cases clozapine) that is due to reductions in hospitalization costs. These results cannot be generalized, however, because of methodological shortcomings such as small patient samples and study designs with low validity, and especially because of a lack of studies performed outside the U.S.. It is shown that results from studies in the U.S. cannot be generalized to other health systems in Europe or in developing countries. Furthermore, only a few findings on newer second-generation antipsychotics other than clozapine are reported, and no study investigated indirect costs, which play a major role because of the early onset and chronicity of schizophrenia. Conclusion: Until now, there has been no sufficient evidence for the superior cost-effectiveness of atypical antipsychotics in European countries. Considering the importance of this topic for health politics, more cost-effectiveness studies in European countries are urgently needed. But even if economic superiority of the second-generation antipsychotics cannot be demonstrated in such studies, their use is nevertheless indicated with respect to patient's well-being.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)18-26
Number of pages9
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2003


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