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Many autistic children experience difficulties in their communication and language skills development, with consequences for social development into adulthood, often resulting in challenges over the life-course and high economic impacts for individuals, families, and society. The Preschool Autism Communication Trial (PACT) intervention is effective in terms of improved social communication and some secondary outcomes. A previously published within-trial economic analysis found that results at 13 months did not support its cost-effectiveness. We modeled cost-effectiveness over 6 years and across four European countries.
Using simulation modeling, we built on economic analyses in the original trial, exploring longer-term cost-effectiveness at 6 years (in England). We adapted our model to undertake an economic analysis of PACT in Ireland, Italy, and Spain. Data on resource use were taken from the original trial and a more recent Irish observational study.
PACT is cost-saving over time from a societal perspective, even though we confirmed that, at 13 months post-delivery, PACT is more expensive than usual treatment (across all countries) when given to preschool autistic children. After 6 years, we found that PACT has lower costs than usual treatment in terms of unpaid care provided by parents (in all countries). Also, if we consider only out-of-pocket expenses from an Irish study, PACT costs less than usual treatment.
PACT may be recommended as a cost-saving early intervention for families with an autistic child.
Autism is a lifelong complex neurodevelopmental condition that affects brain development and behaviour with significant consequences for everyday life. Despite its personal, familial, and societal impact, Europe-wide harmonised guidelines are still lacking for early detection, diagnosis, and intervention, leading to an overall unsatisfactory autistic person and carer journey.
The care pathway for autistic children and adolescents was analysed in Italy, Spain and the UK from the perspective of carers (using a survey aimed at caregivers of autistic children 0–18 years old), the autistic community, and professionals in order to identify major barriers (treatment gaps) preventing carers from receiving information, support, and timely screening/diagnosis and intervention.
Across all three countries, analysis of the current care pathway showed: long waits from the time carers raised their first concerns about a child’s development and/or behaviour until screening and confirmed diagnosis; delayed or no access to intervention once a diagnosis was confirmed; limited information about autism and how to access early detection services; and deficient support for families throughout the journey.
These findings call for policy harmonisation in Europe to shorten long wait times for diagnosis and intervention and therefore, improve autistic people and their families’ journey experience and quality of life.
One in eight individuals worldwide lives with a mental health disorder. For many European countries, the prevalence is even higher, with one in four people reporting mental health problems . Three-quarters of all mental health disorders develop before age 25, with many presenting initially in undiagnosed forms already in the mid-teens and eventually manifesting as severe disorders and lasting into old age . There is also growing evidence that mental health disorder symptoms cross diagnoses and people frequently have more than one mental health disorder .
Autism and epilepsy often occur together. Epilepsy and other associated conditions have a substantial impact on the well-being of autistic people and their families, reduce quality of life, and increase premature mortality. Despite this, there is a lack of studies investigating the care pathway of autistic children with co-occurring epilepsy in Europe.
We analyzed the care pathway for autistic children with associated epilepsy in Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom from the perspective of caregivers (using a survey aimed at caregivers of autistic children 0–18 years old), the autistic community, and professionals, in order to identify major barriers preventing caregivers and autistic children from receiving timely screening and treatment of possible co-occurring epilepsy.
Across all three countries, an analysis of the current care pathway showed a lack of systematic screening of epilepsy in all autistic children, lack of treatment of co-occurring epilepsy, and inappropriate use of antiepileptic drugs. A major challenge is the lack of evidence-based harmonized guidelines for autism with co-occurring epilepsy in these countries.
Our findings show both heterogeneity and major gaps in the care pathway for autism with associated epilepsy and the great efforts that caregivers must make for timely screening, diagnosis, and adequate management of epilepsy in autistic children. We call for policy harmonization in Europe in order to improve the experiences and quality of life of autistic people and their families.
Major depressive disorder (MDD) is highly prevalent across Europe. While evidence-based treatments exist, many people with MDD have their condition undetected and/or untreated. This study aimed to assess the cost-effectiveness of reducing treatment gaps using a modeling approach.
A decision-tree model covering a 27-month time horizon was used. This followed a care pathway where MDD could be detected or not, and where different forms of treatment could be provided. Expected costs pertaining to Germany, Hungary, Italy, Portugal, Sweden, and the UK were calculated and quality-adjusted life years (QALYs) were estimated. The incremental costs per QALY of reducing detection and treatment gaps were estimated.
The expected costs with a detection gap of 69% and treatment gap of 50% were €1236 in Germany, €476 in Hungary, €1413 in Italy, €938 in Portugal, €2093 in Sweden, and €1496 in the UK. The incremental costs per QALY of reducing the detection gap to 50% ranged from €2429 in Hungary to €10,686 in Sweden. The figures for reducing the treatment gap to 25% ranged from €3146 in Hungary to €13,843 in Sweden.
Reducing detection and treatment gaps, and maintaining current patterns of care, is likely to increase healthcare costs in the short term. However, outcomes are improved, and reducing these gaps to 50 and 25%, respectively, appears to be a cost-effective use of resources.
Major depressive disorder (MDD) is a leading cause of disability worldwide, and yet delivery of care for this illness is rife with gaps. The COVID-19 pandemic has had far reaching implications for every facet of healthcare, and MDD is no exception. This scoping review aimed to ascertain the impacts of COVID-19 on the delivery of MDD care in Europe, as well as to evaluate any novel MDD care strategies trialled in this period.
We searched the PubMed and PsycINFO databases up to January 2022 with a strategy centred around COVID-19 and MDD. Full texts of eligible studies examining working-age adults and conducted in Europe were evaluated against several criteria. All outcomes were then extracted and a narrative synthesis was constructed to summarise identified themes.
Of 1,744 records identified in our search, 11 articles were eligible for inclusion in the review. In general, these studies reported a decrease in treatment rates, access to care, and perceived access to care during the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, digital interventions trialled during the pandemic were broadly well-received by users, though their efficacy in improving MDD care was ambiguous.
Despite a limited number of pertinent studies, this scoping review identified a trend of exacerbated treatment gaps in MDD care during the pandemic. Several of our pre-specified gaps, including delays to detection or treatment of depression and rates of follow-up contacts, remained unexplored in the context of COVID-19. This highlights the need for further investigation to obtain a full understanding of the relationship between COVID-19 and MDD care in Europe.
Despite well-established guidelines for managing major depressive disorder, its extensive disability burden persists. This Value of Treatment mission from the European Brain Council aimed to elucidate the nature and extent of “gaps” between best-practice and current-practice care, specifically to:
1. Identify current treatment gaps along the care pathway and determine the extent of these gaps in comparison with the stepped-care model and
After agreement upon a set of relevant treatment gaps, data pertaining to each gap were gathered and synthesized from several sources across six European countries. Subsequently, a modified Delphi approach was undertaken to attain consensus among an expert panel on proposed recommendations for minimizing treatment gaps.
Four recommendations were made to increase the depression diagnosis rate (from ~50% episodes), aiming to both increase the number of patients seeking help, and the likelihood of a practitioner to correctly detect depression. These should reduce time to treatment (from ~1 to ~8 years after illness onset) and increase rates of treatment; nine further recommendations aimed to increase rates of treatment (from ~25 to ~50% of patients currently treated), mainly focused on targeting the best treatment to each patient. To improve follow-up after treatment initiation (from ~30 to ~65% followed up within 3 months), seven recommendations focused on increasing continuity of care. For those not responding, 10 recommendations focused on ensuring access to more specialist care (currently at rates of ~5–25% of patients).
The treatment gaps in depression care are substantial and concerning, from the proportion of people not entering care pathways to those stagnating in primary care with impairing and persistent illness. A wide range of recommendations can be made to enhance care throughout the pathway.
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