Evidence from cost-effective smoking cessation programs is scarce. This study determined the cost-effectiveness of 3 smoking cessation strategies as provided by general practitioners (GPs) in Germany.
In a cluster-randomized smoking cessation trial, rates and intervention costs for 577 smoking patients of 82 GPs were followed up for 12 months. Three smoking cessation treatments were tested: (1) GP training plus GP remuneration for each abstinent patient, (2) GP training plus cost-free nicotine replacement medication and/or bupropion hydrochloride for the patient, and (3) a combination of both strategies. Smoking abstinence at 12 months was the primary outcome used to calculate incremental cost-effectiveness ratios and net monetary benefits.
Intervention 1 was not effective compared with treatment as usual (TAU). Interventions 2 and 3 each proved to be cost-effective compared separately with TAU. When applying a 95% level of certainty of cost-effectiveness against TAU, €9.80 or €6.96, respectively, had to be paid for each additional 1% of patients abstinent at 12 months (maximum willingness to pay). That means that in intervention 2, €92.12 per patient in the program must be invested to gain 1 additional quitter (as opposed to €39.10 paid per patient during the trial). In intervention 2, the cost was €82.82, as opposed to €50.04. Neither of these 2 cost-effective treatments proved to be superior to the other. The cost-effectiveness of both treatments was stable against TAU in sensitivity analyses. (The exchange rate from October 1, 2003, was used; €1 = $1.17.)
Both treatments have a high potential to reduce smoking-related morbidity at a low cost. It is highly recommended that they be implemented as a routine service offered by GPs because in many countries, health insurance plans currently do not fund nicotine replacement therapy.