In an investigation aimed at analyzing behavioral, pharmacological and combined interventions in the treatment of children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, Dr. Timothy F. Page of the Robert Stempel College of Public Health & Social Work, and Dr. William E. Pelham, Jr. of the interdisciplinary Center for Children and Families, have found that behavioral therapy is cheaper than medication.
“Prior work had found that medication was cheaper than behavioral therapy. However, these studies were done before the introduction of extended release — and very expensive — medications. Our study shows that with the cost of the new medications, it is no longer the case that medication is cheaper than behavioral treatment,” said Dr. Page.
Funded in part by a grant from the Institute of Education Sciences, their research revealed a number of cost-saving strategies for the treatment of ADHD. For example, among initial responders, costs were significantly lower for those who began treatment with behavior modification. This suggests that a cost-saving strategy would be to begin treatment for ADHD children with a low dose of behavior modification. Other effective cost-saving strategies were identified, such as providing large-group parent training instead of individual parent training, and using lower-cost personnel such as master’s-level mental health counselors instead of doctoral-level psychologists. These strategies resulted in lower costs for ADHD treatment with no apparent loss in effectiveness.
According to Dr. Page, “Our findings are significant because currently, insurance does not pay for behavioral treatment because of the belief that medication is cheaper. Therefore, our study has the potential to get practitioners and insurance companies to rethink their clinical practice guidelines.”
Their findings are presented in a recently published paper, Comparative Cost Analysis of Sequential, Adaptive, Behavioral, Pharmacological and Combined Treatments for Childhood ADHD.