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Cost-utility analysis of different treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder in sexually abused children

Elena Gospodarevskaya1* and Leonie Segal2

Author Affiliations

1 Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, Clinical Research Group, Pembroke Place, Liverpool L3 5QA, UK

2 Division of Health Sciences, University of South Australia, Campus East, North Terrace, Adelaide, SA, Australia

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Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health 2012, 6:15  doi:10.1186/1753-2000-6-15

Published: 10 April 2012



Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is diagnosed in 20% to 53% of sexually abused children and adolescents. Living with PTSD is associated with a loss of health-related quality of life. Based on the best available evidence, the NICE Guideline for PTSD in children and adolescents recommends cognitive behavioural therapy (TF-CBT) over non-directive counselling as a more efficacious treatment.


A modelled economic evaluation conducted from the Australian mental health care system perspective estimates incremental costs and Quality Adjusted Life Years (QALYs) of TF-CBT, TF-CBT combined with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), and non-directive counselling. The "no treatment" alternative is included as a comparator. The first part of the model consists of a decision tree corresponding to 12 month follow-up outcomes observed in clinical trials. The second part consists of a 30 year Markov model representing the slow process of recovery in non-respondents and the untreated population yielding estimates of long-term quality-adjusted survival and costs. Data from the 2007 Australian Mental Health Survey was used to populate the decision analytic model.


In the base-case and sensitivity analyses, incremental cost-effectiveness ratios (ICERs) for all three active treatment alternatives remained less than A$7,000 per QALY gained. The base-case results indicated that non-directive counselling is dominated by TF-CBT and TF-CBT + SSRI, and that efficiency gain can be achieved by allocating more resources toward these therapies. However, this result was sensitive to variation in the clinical effectiveness parameters with non-directive counselling dominating TF-CBT and TF-CBT + SSRI under certain assumptions. The base-case results also suggest that TF-CBT + SSRI is more cost-effective than TF-CBT.


Even after accounting for uncertainty in parameter estimates, the results of the modelled economic evaluation demonstrated that all psychotherapy treatments for PTSD in sexually abused children have a favourable ICER relative to no treatment. The results also highlighted the loss of quality of life in children who do not receive any psychotherapy. Results of the base-case analysis suggest that TF-CBT + SSRI is more cost-effective than TF-CBT alone, however, considering the uncertainty associated with prescribing SSRIs to children and adolescents, clinicians and parents may exercise some caution in choosing this treatment alternative.