Using Economic Evaluation to Inform Responses to the Opioid Epidemic in the United States: Challenges and Suggestions for Future Research

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Several aspects of the opioid epidemic and of public health care organization in the United States (US) make the conduct of economic evaluation and the design of policies to respond to this crisis particularly challenging. Objectives: This commentary offers suggestions for how economic evaluation may address and overcome four key features of the opioid epidemic: 1) its magnitude and geographical distribution, 2) its intersection with multiple epidemics, 3) its rapidly changing dynamics, 4) its multi-sectoral causes and consequences. Results: We first offer pragmatic suggestions to address the difficulties in delivering a coordinated response given the fragmented nature of health care in the US. In view of the broad suite of responses required to address opioid use disorder and its associated comorbidities, we highlight the need for economic evaluations which consider interventions throughout the continuum of care (i.e. primary, secondary and tertiary levels of prevention). We examine how the use of predictive modelling alongside economic evaluation might be adopted to address the rapidly evolving situation affecting distinct populations and geographic areas and encourage investments in epidemic preparedness. Finally, we propose methods to capture the interdependence of various sectors of government affected by the opioid crisis in economic evaluations to ensure optimal levels of investment towards a comprehensive response. Conclusions: The opioid epidemic in the US represents an unprecedented public health challenge, but sound epidemiological modelling and economic analysis can help to guide use of limited resources committed to addressing it in ways that can have greatest impact in limiting its adverse consequences.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)815-821
JournalSubstance use & misuse
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 14 Feb 2022

Bibliographical note

© 2022 The Author(s). Published with license by Taylor and Francis Group, LLC

Cite this