Treatment for ADHD: Is more complex treatment cost-effective for more complex cases?

E. Michael Foster, Peter S. Jensen, Michael Schlander, William E. Pelham, Lily Hechtman, L. Eugene Arnold, James M. Swanson, Timothy Wigal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Objective. To determine the cost-effectiveness of three alternative high-quality treatments for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) relative to community care (CC) and to determine whether cost-effectiveness varies with the presence of comorbid disorders. Data Sources/Collection. The study included 579 children ages 7-9.9 with diagnosed ADHD at six sites. Data for the study were distilled from administrative data and from interviews with parents, including estimates of the child's functional impairment. These analyses focus on changes in functional impairment over 14 months. Study Design. The study involved a large clinical trial that randomized participants to one of four arms: routine CC, intensive medication management (MedMgt), multicomponent behavioral treatment, and a combination of behavioral treatment and medication. Principal Findings. We assessed the cost-effectiveness of the alternatives using costs measured from a payer perspective. The preferred cost-effective treatment varies as a function of the child's comorbidity and of the policy maker's willingness to pay. For pure (no comorbidity) ADHD, high-quality MedMgt appears likely to be cost-effective at all levels of willingness to pay. In contrast, for some comorbid conditions, willingness to pay is critical: the policy maker with low willingness to pay likely will judge MedMgt most cost-effective. On the other hand, a policy maker willing to pay more now in expectation of future costs savings (involving, for example, juvenile justice), will recognize that the most cost-effective choice for comorbid conditions likely involves behavior therapy, with or without medication. Conclusions: Analyses of costs and effectiveness of treatment for ADHD must consider the role of comorbidities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)165-182
Number of pages18
JournalHealth Services Research
Issue number1 I
StatePublished - Feb 2007


  • ADHD
  • Anxiety
  • Children
  • Conduct disorder
  • Cost-effectiveness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy


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