Schizophrenia is associated with a high familiar, social and economic burden. During the recent years early and specific intervention for first psychotic episodes has been suggested to improve the long term outcome of the disease. Despite the promising results obtained so far, early intervention is still scarcely applied. One major problem arises from the translation of research findings into stakeholder policies. In fact very few analyses of cost reductions obtained with early intervention have been reported. In the present paper we present a simulation of direct cost reduction that can be obtained with early intervention programmes. We based our analysis on available data about schizophrenia care costs in Italy and the expected cost reduction with the use of early intervention. We observed that the increase in costs due to the more intensive early intervention is largely compensated by the reduction of inpatient admissions with a reduction of direct costs of 6.01%. Despite the apparently small economic gain, early intervention offers more clinical and social benefits as it seems to be effective also in decreasing relapse rates, in improving the patients' quality of life and disability associated with psychosis and in increasing employment rates. Those indirect costs however are difficult to estimate and were not included in our model.
In conclusion, our study supports the use of early intervention in schizophrenia, which could allow an outcome improvement with lower direct and indirect costs.