Internet- and mobile-based intervention for depression in adults with chronic back pain: A health economic evaluation

Sarah Paganini, Yannik Terhorst, Lasse Bosse Sander, Jiaxi Lin, Sandra Schlicker, David Daniel Ebert, Matthias Berking, Heleen Riper, Harald Baumeister

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1 Citation (Scopus)


Background: Depression and comorbid chronic back pain (CBP) lead to high personal and economic burden. Internet- and mobile-based interventions (IMI) might be a cost-effective adjunct to established interventions. Methods: A health economic evaluation was embedded into an observer-blinded, multicenter RCT (societal and health care perspective). We randomly assigned participants (≥18 years) with CBP and diagnosed depression from 82 orthopedic clinics across Germany to intervention (IG + treatment as usual [TAU]) or TAU control group (CG). The IG received a guided IMI. Primary outcomes were depression response and quality-adjusted life years (QALYs) at 6-months follow-up. Multiple imputation was used to address missing data. Incremental cost-effectiveness/cost-utility ratios (ICER/ICUR) and the probability of being cost-effective at different willingness-to-pay thresholds were calculated. Statistical uncertainty was estimated using bootstrapping techniques (N = 10,000). Results: Between October 2015 and July 2017 210 participants were randomly assigned to IG (n = 105) and CG (n = 105). Depression response did not differ significantly between groups. QALYs were significantly higher in the IG compared to the CG. Taking the societal perspective and assuming a commonly used willingness-to-pay of €34,000/QALY, the intervention's likelihood of being cost-effective was 64%. Limitations: The main limitation is that the study was powered to detect clinical but not health economic differences between groups. Conclusion: The IMI is considered cost-effective (vs. CG) for individuals with depression and CBP (societal perspective). These results are promising when considering the high individual and economic burden of this patient group. Further research is needed to adequately inform political decision makers before implementation into routine care.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)607-615
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of affective disorders
Early online date7 Apr 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2022


  • Chronic pain
  • Comorbidity
  • Cost-effectiveness
  • Cost-utility
  • Depressive disorder
  • E-Health

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