Chronic fatigue in general practice: economic evaluation of counselling versus cognitive behaviour therapy.


BACKGROUND There is a paucity of evidence relating to the cost-effectiveness of alternative treatment responses to chronic fatigue. AIM To compare the relative costs and outcomes of counselling versus cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) provided in primary care settings for the treatment of fatigue. DESIGN OF STUDY A randomised controlled trial incorporating a cost-consequences analysis. SETTING One hundred and twenty-nine patients from 10 general practices across London and the South Thames region who had experienced symptoms of fatigue for at least three months. METHOD An economic analysis was performed to measure costs of therapy, other use of health services, informal care-giving, and lost employment. The principal outcome measure was the Fatigue Questionnaire; secondary measures were the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale and a social adjustment scale. RESULTS Although the mean cost of treatment was higher for the CBT group (164 Pounds, standard deviation = 67) than the counselling group (109 Pounds, SD = 49; 95% confidence interval = 35 to 76, P < 0.001), a comparison of change scores between baseline and six-month assessment revealed no statistically significant differences between the two groups in terms of aggregate health care costs, patient and family costs or incremental cost-effectiveness (cost per unit of improvement on the fatigue score). CONCLUSIONS Counselling and CBT both led to improvements in fatigue and related symptoms, while slightly reducing informal care and lost productivity costs. Counselling represents a less costly (and more widely available) intervention but no overall cost-effectiveness advantage was found for either form of therapy.


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