The Brazilian policy of withholding treatment for ADHD is probably increasing health and social costs

Carlos R. Maia Steffan F. Stella Paulo Mattos Guilherme V. Polanczyk Carisi A. Polanczyk Luis A. Rohde About the authors

Abstract

Objective:

To estimate the economic consequences of the current Brazilian government policy for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) treatment and how much the country would save if treatment with immediate-release methylphenidate (MPH-IR), as suggested by the World Health Organization (WHO), was offered to patients with ADHD.

Method:

Based on conservative previous analyses, we assumed that 257,662 patients aged 5 to 19 years are not receiving ADHD treatment in Brazil. We estimated the direct costs and savings of treating and not treating ADHD on the basis of the following data: a) spending on ADHD patients directly attributable to grade retention and emergency department visits; and b) savings due to impact of ADHD treatment on these outcomes.

Results:

Considering outcomes for which data on the impact of MPH-IR treatment are available, Brazil is probably wasting approximately R$ 1.841 billion/year on the direct consequences of not treating ADHD in this age range alone. On the other hand, treating ADHD in accordance with WHO recommendations would save approximately R$ 1.163 billion/year.

Conclusions:

By increasing investments on MPH-IR treatment for ADHD to around R$ 377 million/year, the country would save approximately 3.1 times more than is currently spent on the consequences of not treating ADHD in patients aged 5 to 19 years.

attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder; social and political issues; costs and cost analysis; child psychiatry; central nervous system stimulants


Introduction

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) generates huge direct and indirect costs for countries worldwide. Considering that immediate-release methylphenidate (MPH-IR) is one of the best-known, most efficacious and least expensive treatments in psychiatry,11. Leucht S, Hierl S, Kissling W, Dold M, Davis JM. Putting the efficacy of psychiatric and general medicine medication into perspective: review of meta-analyses. Br J Psychiatry. 2012;200:97-106. it seems reasonable to consider the economics of avoiding the consequences of non-treatment instead of paying for the financial losses generated by non-treatment. This is not the case in Brazil. Our country does not have a specific treatment policy for ADHD, resulting in a series of complex procedures for low-income patients to obtain MPH-IR. In Brazil, there are two ways of obtaining pharmacological treatment for ADHD through the Unified Health System: by lawsuits or through an administrative process beset by red tape.

MPH-IR is covered by the Exceptional Circumstance Drug Dispensing Program of Brazil, and is thus included in a formulary of treatments funded in part by the Brazilian federal government and 50% by states. Despite wide coverage by the Program, greater attention to psychiatric disorders in general, and to ADHD in particular, is required. A 2005 survey carried out in the state of São Paulo identified diseases which prompted lawsuits to secure access to drugs, and found that, of 27 diseases, only one was not covered by a treatment policy: ADHD.22. Vieira FS. Ministry of Health's spending on drugs: program trends from 2002 to 2007. Rev Saude Publica. 2009;43:674-81.

To neglect ADHD is to ignore facts about direct and indirect costs, as shown in several other countries. According to the Brazilian National Health Surveillance Agency (Agência Nacional de Vigilância Sanitária, ANVISA), the estimated amount paid out of pocket by Brazilian families to buy methylphenidate in 2011 was R$ 28.5 million for patients aged 6 to 16 years.33. Agência Nacional de Vigilância Sanitária (ANVISA). Prescrição e consumo de metilfenidato no Brasil: identificando riscos para o monitoramento e controle sanitário. SNGPC - Boletim de Farmacoepidemiologia [Internet]. 2012 [cited 2015 Jan]. http://www.anvisa.gov.br/sngpc/boletins/2012/boletim_sngpc_2_2012_corrigido_2.pdf
http://www.anvisa.gov.br/sngpc/boletins/...
In an extremely conservative analysis, Mattos et al.44. Mattos P, Rohde LA, Polanczyk GV. ADHD is undertreated in Brazil. Rev Bras Psiquiatr. 2012;34:513-6. demonstrated that at least 257,662 young people (aged 5 to 19 years) with ADHD were untreated in Brazil as of 2012.

We aimed to estimate the economic consequences of the current Brazilian government policy for ADHD treatment and how much the country could save if treatment as suggested by the World Health Organization (WHO) was offered to ADHD patients.

Method

Literature review

Direct cost-of-illness studies about ADHD have focused on the areas of education, the justice system, and therapeutic interventions. Thus, we first conducted a systematic review of the PubMed, LILACS, and SciELO databases to detect studies which evaluated the economic effects of MPH-IR on the three aforementioned areas. As no study was found, we expanded the systematic review to include the impact of MPH-IR on functional outcomes for ADHD patients. We were able to find papers only on the effect of MPH-IR on percent reduction of three functional outcomes: grade retention, emergency department (ED) utilization, and criminality among ADHD patients. The search queries used were: (“Cost of Illness”[Mesh]) AND “Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity”[Mesh]; ((“Educational Status”[Mesh]) AND “Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity”[Mesh]) AND “Cost of Illness”[Mesh]; (“Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity”[Mesh]) AND “Emergency Medical Services”[Mesh]; (“Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity”[Mesh]) AND “Criminal Law”[Mesh]; (“Educational Status”[Mesh]) AND “Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity”[Mesh]. We accepted papers published in the last 15 years and in English. As most studies in this field are systematic reviews, we accepted this study design and clinical trials for data extraction. Data on the costs of ADHD for the three mentioned outcomes (grade retention, ED utilization, and criminality) were extracted directly from studies found in the three cost-of-illness meta-analyses about ADHD published in the last 10 years.55. Doshi JA, Hodgkins P, Kahle J, Sikirica V, Cangelosi MJ, Setyawan J, et al. Economic impact of childhood and adult attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in the United States. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2012;51:990-1002 e2.,66. Braun S, Zeidler J, Linder R, Engel S, Verheyen F, Greiner W. Treatment costs of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in Germany. Eur J Health Econ. 2013;14:939-45.

Estimation of costs and savings

Considering an extremely conservative ADHD prevalence of 0.9%, our group previously estimated that around 257,662 patients aged 5 to 19 years were not receiving ADHD treatment in Brazil in 2010.44. Mattos P, Rohde LA, Polanczyk GV. ADHD is undertreated in Brazil. Rev Bras Psiquiatr. 2012;34:513-6.

We implemented a procedure similar to the one used by Doshi et al.55. Doshi JA, Hodgkins P, Kahle J, Sikirica V, Cangelosi MJ, Setyawan J, et al. Economic impact of childhood and adult attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in the United States. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2012;51:990-1002 e2. to estimate direct costs on grade retention, ED utilization, and criminality among ADHD patients in Brazil. Since we decided to be as conservative as possible, we estimated only direct costs related to these outcomes by entering only data on outcomes for which we were able to find documented effects of MPH-IR for ADHD patients in the literature. When more than one study covering the same outcome was found, we calculated the mean cost for that outcome (Table 1). Since data on reduction of criminality with the use of ADHD medication was based on adult samples, and medications other than MPH-IR were also included, we focused our analyses on grade retention and ED visits, for an even more conservative estimate.

Table 1
Estimate of direct costs per person for untreated ADHD and expected economic results if treated with MPH-IR, considering data from the United States, converted to the Brazilian reality on the basis of purchasing power parity*

As we needed to use foreign data (from the United States and Belgium) extrapolated to the Brazilian population to estimate costs and savings, we used the purchasing power parity (PPP) conversion factor in our calculations. According to The World Bank, the PPP conversion factor for 1 U.S. dollar as of 2013 was R$ 1.61; for comparison purposes, on 26 December, 2013, the exchange rate was US$ 1 = R$ 2.26.1515. Banco Central do Brasil. Dólar americano [Internet]. 2012 [cited 2015 Jan]. http://www4.bcb.gov.br/pec/taxas/batch/taxas.asp?id=txdolar
http://www4.bcb.gov.br/pec/taxas/batch/t...
Adequate treatment was defined according to WHO recommendations: one pill of MPH-IR, three times per day, year-round (Figure 1).

Figure 1
Best ADHD treatment scenario: cost for all young ADHD patients treated with three MPH-IR pills/day, 365 days/year. Highest purchasing price of one box of MPH-IR (20 pills/box) plus highest rate (19%) of the Brazilian value-added tax on sales and services (Imposto sobre Circulação de Mercadorias e Serviços, ICMS) = R$ 20.85; highest purchasing price of one box of MPH-IR (20 pills/box) to the government, with 0% ICMS = R$ 15.69. Source: WHO Collaborating Centre for Drug Statistics Methodology (WHOCC).1616. WHO Collaborating Centre for Drug Statistics Methodology (WHOCC). DDD defined daily dose [Internet]. 2014 [cited 2015 Jan]. http://www.whocc.no/atc_ddd_index/?code=N06BA04
http://www.whocc.no/atc_ddd_index/?code=...

Results

Based on the data extracted from the literature and using the estimates mentioned above, Brazil would be wasting approximately R$ 1.841 billion/year only on part of the direct consequences of not treating ADHD in children aged 5 to 19 years, considering only those outcomes for which data on the impact of MPH-IR treatment in this age range are available. On the other hand, treating all young ADHD patients according to WHO recommendations (Figure 1), i.e., with three pills of MPH-IR per day, year-round, with a consequent reduction in grade retention and accident rates related to untreated ADHD as suggested by Barbaresi et al.1313. Barbaresi WJ, Katusic SK, Colligan RC, Weaver AL, Jacobsen SJ. Modifiers of long-term school outcomes for children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: does treatment with stimulant medication make a difference? Results from a population-based study. J Dev Behav Pediatr. 2007;28:274-87. and Raman et al.1414. Raman SR, Marshall SW, Haynes K, Gaynes BN, Naftel AJ, Sturmer T. Stimulant treatment and injury among children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: an application of the self-controlled case series study design. Inj Prev. 2013;19:164-70. respectively, would lead to savings in the region of R$ 1.163 billion/year (Table 1).

Discussion

To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study to estimate costs and savings of ADHD treatment in young patients from Brazil. Results were estimated solely on the basis of data about grade retention and ED utilization, and did not consider direct costs on other areas, such as special education, inpatient or outpatient care, and juvenile criminality. Furthermore, we did not calculate indirect costs incurred by caregivers.

The results of this study warrant careful attention, especially considering that we tried to be as conservative as possible in several assumptions. The size of the untreated population with ADHD in Brazil was underestimated in our previous study due to several reasons: a) the low prevalence of 0.9% considered (the pooled worldwide prevalence is estimated at 5.29%1717. Polanczyk G, de Lima MS, Horta BL, Biederman J, Rohde LA. The worldwide prevalence of ADHD: a systematic review and metaregression analysis. Am J Psychiatry. 2007;164:942-8.); b) ADHD treatment was defined as the use of only one pill of any medication (e.g., 1 pill MPH-IR 10 mg) for 10 months (considering summer vacations), 5 days/week (considering weekend holidays); and c) the volume of MPH-IR sales in 2009/2010 was based on IMS Health data. Data provided by ANVISA indicated that fewer patients received treatment in the same period. Furthermore, to estimate the number of untreated ADHD patients aged 5 to 19 years for this study, we used figures for all ages under treatment (children, adolescents, and adults) from the previous study, as there were no data on treatment stratified by age. Thus, we artificially reduced the actual number of untreated ADHD patients aged 5 to 19 years. Finally, when estimating the cost of treatment, we considered the highest purchasing price for one box (20 tablets) of MPH-IR 10 mg available in Brazil's public accounts plus the highest rate of the Brazilian value-added tax on sales and services (Imposto sobre Circulação de Mercadorias e Serviços, ICMS, which varies across states, from 12 to 19%) in the country (19%), for a total price of R$ 15.69. Thus, by estimating the highest possible cost, we may have underestimated potential savings.

Conversely, some other factors might overestimate our findings. The rates of patients treated in Brazil were based on 2009/2010 data; we expect that more patients would be receiving treatment in recent years. The PPP conversion used to adapt the costs of international services to Brazilian standards might not have sufficiently discounted the lower prices in Brazil for the outcomes assessed. In other words, several differences regarding education and health services between Brazil and the other countries could have inflated our cost estimates. In addition, the cost associated with ADHD in studies might be partially determined by comorbidities or other medical conditions. Lastly, when estimating reduction of injuries associated with MPH use, we considered not only injuries that received treatment in an ED setting but also those treated at other health facilities, such as general practice and hospital visits. The direction of bias is difficult to determine for the other factors, as the costs of outcomes associated with ADHD vary widely among studies. Although we used mean values for our analyses, this variability introduces imprecision.

In conclusion, if Brazil decides to increase the investment in treating ADHD from the current R$ 28 million spent by families out of pocket33. Agência Nacional de Vigilância Sanitária (ANVISA). Prescrição e consumo de metilfenidato no Brasil: identificando riscos para o monitoramento e controle sanitário. SNGPC - Boletim de Farmacoepidemiologia [Internet]. 2012 [cited 2015 Jan]. http://www.anvisa.gov.br/sngpc/boletins/2012/boletim_sngpc_2_2012_corrigido_2.pdf
http://www.anvisa.gov.br/sngpc/boletins/...
to R$ 377 million (Figure 1), the country would still save 3.1 times more than it currently spends. The Brazilian government must urgently review its treatment policy for ADHD, or lack thereof, and facilitate access to ADHD therapy.

Disclosures

CRM has received speaker's honoraria from Novartis; has developed educational material for Novartis; and has received travel and registration support for the 4th World Congress on ADHD from the World Federation of ADHD. The ADHD Outpatient Program at UFRJ (PM) has received research support from Novartis, Janssen-Cilag, and Shire. PM has received travel support (airfare and hotel) to take part in scientific meetings sponsored by Janssen-Cilag, Novartis, Eli-Lilly, and Shire; and has received speaker's honoraria from Eli-Lilly, Janssen-Cilag, Novartis, and Shire. GVP has received speaker's honoraria from Eli-Lilly, Janssen-Cilag, Novartis, and Shire; and has received unrestricted research support from Novartis. The ADHD and Juvenile Bipolar Disorder Outpatient Programs chaired by LAR have received unrestricted educational and research support from Eli-Lilly, Janssen-Cilag, Novartis, and Shire. LAR has received speaker's honoraria from Eli-Lilly, Janssen-Cilag, Novartis, and Shire; has worked as a consultant/advisory board member for Eli-Lilly, Janssen-Cilag, Novartis, and Shire; receives authorship royalties from Oxford Press and ArtMed; and has received travel support from Shire for his participation in the 2014 APA meeting. The other authors report no conflicts of interest.

Acknowledgements

CRM receives research support from Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior (CAPES). GVP has received unrestricted research support from Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico (CNPq).

References

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    Vieira FS. Ministry of Health's spending on drugs: program trends from 2002 to 2007. Rev Saude Publica. 2009;43:674-81.
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    Agência Nacional de Vigilância Sanitária (ANVISA). Prescrição e consumo de metilfenidato no Brasil: identificando riscos para o monitoramento e controle sanitário. SNGPC - Boletim de Farmacoepidemiologia [Internet]. 2012 [cited 2015 Jan]. http://www.anvisa.gov.br/sngpc/boletins/2012/boletim_sngpc_2_2012_corrigido_2.pdf
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    Barbaresi WJ, Katusic SK, Colligan RC, Weaver AL, Jacobsen SJ. Modifiers of long-term school outcomes for children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: does treatment with stimulant medication make a difference? Results from a population-based study. J Dev Behav Pediatr. 2007;28:274-87.
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    Raman SR, Marshall SW, Haynes K, Gaynes BN, Naftel AJ, Sturmer T. Stimulant treatment and injury among children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: an application of the self-controlled case series study design. Inj Prev. 2013;19:164-70.
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    WHO Collaborating Centre for Drug Statistics Methodology (WHOCC). DDD defined daily dose [Internet]. 2014 [cited 2015 Jan]. http://www.whocc.no/atc_ddd_index/?code=N06BA04
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    Polanczyk G, de Lima MS, Horta BL, Biederman J, Rohde LA. The worldwide prevalence of ADHD: a systematic review and metaregression analysis. Am J Psychiatry. 2007;164:942-8.

Publication Dates

  • Publication in this collection
    Jan-Mar 2015

History

  • Received
    24 Jan 2014
  • Accepted
    16 Sept 2014
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