BACKGROUND: An increasing number of model-based studies that evaluate the cost effectiveness of treatments for depression are being published. These studies have different characteristics and use different simulation methods.
OBJECTIVE: We aimed to systematically review model-based studies evaluating the cost effectiveness of treatments for depression and examine which modelling technique is most appropriate for simulating the natural course of depression.
METHODS: The literature search was conducted in the databases PubMed, EMBASE and PsycInfo between 1 January 2002 and 1 October 2016. Studies were eligible if they used a health economic model with quality-adjusted life-years or disability-adjusted life-years as an outcome measure. Data related to various methodological characteristics were extracted from the included studies. The available modelling techniques were evaluated based on 11 predefined criteria.
RESULTS: This methodological review included 41 model-based studies, of which 21 used decision trees (DTs), 15 used cohort-based state-transition Markov models (CMMs), two used individual-based state-transition models (ISMs), and three used discrete-event simulation (DES) models. Just over half of the studies (54%) evaluated antidepressants compared with a control condition. The data sources, time horizons, cycle lengths, perspectives adopted and number of health states/events all varied widely between the included studies. DTs scored positively in four of the 11 criteria, CMMs in five, ISMs in six, and DES models in seven.
CONCLUSION: There were substantial methodological differences between the studies. Since the individual history of each patient is important for the prognosis of depression, DES and ISM simulation methods may be more appropriate than the others for a pragmatic representation of the course of depression. However, direct comparisons between the available modelling techniques are necessary to yield firm conclusions.