The Costs of Pharmacological Treatment for Major Depression: The Italian Prospective Multicentre Observational Incidence-Based Study
Objective: To describe the pharmacological treatment for major depression under the conditions of routine Italian public mental health facilities, assess its costs, and study its main predictors according to a societal perspective. Design: This was a prospective multicentre observational study designed to evaluate the economics of treatment of major depression using a specifically designed 65-item questionnaire. Data on drug consumption were collected in a section of the questionnaire and are presented here. Patients and participants: 60 mental health facilities were selected and 556 patients were enrolled and followed up for 15 months. Results: Pharmacological treatment appears to be the most common treatment for major depression. 98% of patients were prescribed an antidepressant. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) were the most prescribed antidepressants. Patients treated with SSRIs suffered from less severe depression than those treated with tricyclic antidepressants. Benzodiazepines were prescribed for 84% of patients enrolled. The total drug cost was 1 120 000 Italian lire ($US707) per patient (1995 values). Less than 20% of this cost was borne by the Italian National Health Service, as the majority of drugs used were not reimbursed. Conclusions: The costs of the most widespread approach to treating major depression (pharmacological treatment) are not currently covered by the Italian National Health Service. Prescribing of drugs seems to diverge from the standards of treatment indicated by the Italian Drug Committee.
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