December 7, 2021
A team of German researchers explored five million member records from a database that tracks more than sixty nationwide statutory health insurance programs. The database closely tracks the characteristics of the overall German population.
This was a longitudinal cohort study, tracking individuals first diagnosed with adult ADHD between 2013 and 2017. Anyone who was not continuously insured during this period was excluded, as were those who died, plus anyone older than 55 to prevent bias from high morbidity in the top age brackets.
The study team used the database to add up direct healthcare costs, including inpatient care, outpatient care, psychotherapy, medical aids and remedies, medication, and sickness benefits. In Germany, sickness benefits kick in after more than six weeks of continuous inability to work.
The study tracked data within a window extending both four years back and four years forward from the initial adult ADHD diagnosis.
The resulting study cohort consisted of 2,380 persons between 18 and 55, initially diagnosed with ADHD at an average age of 35. Sixty percent were male.
One-third were prescribed ADHD medication upon diagnosis. Four years later, only one-eighth were still on medication.
Almost two-thirds received psychotherapy, dropping to under a third in succeeding years.
During the year following diagnosis, average healthcare costs totaled about €4,000 per individual. For those who initiated ADHD medication, the average cost was just over €5,400, and for those who did not it was almost €3,500.
The authors concluded, "An important finding of the present investigation is that in the year of initial diagnosis, less than one-third of individuals received any prescription of ADHD-specific medication, and only a fourth got at least two prescriptions. At the same time, almost two-thirds of individuals received psychotherapy in the year of ADHD[adult ADHD] diagnosis. In about one-third of individuals, psychotherapy had been initiated already before a diagnosis of ADHD, presumably for treatment of comorbid disorders. ... In current German guidelines, ADHD-specific medication is recommended as the first choice ... Apparently, despite the vast body of evidence for the beneficial effects of ADHD-specific medication, at least in the short-term, and in contrast to the recommendations of previous and current guidelines, stimulant medication is only reluctantly prescribed in newly identified adults with ADHD. ... Overall, our findings suggest that significant deficiencies may currently exist concerning the reality of healthcare for ADHD in Germany, and that guideline recommendations are not yet comprehensively implemented in everyday routine care."
Berit Libutzki, Benno Neukirch, Melanie May, Markus Gleitz, Michael Karus, Catharina A. Hartman, and Andreas Reif, "Diseaseburden and direct medical costs of incident adult ADHD: A retrospective longitudinal analysis based on German statutory health insurance claims data," EuropeanPsychiatry (2020),63(1), e86, 1-9, https://doi.org/10.1192/j.eurpsy.2020.84.