Compassion Therapy a Cost-Effective Wellness Approach, Study Finds

Compassion Therapy a Cost-Effective Wellness Approach, Study Finds

Therapies based on compassion are more cost-effective and associated with a better quality of life than are those using relaxation techniques to help people with fibromyalgia, a study reported.

The study, “Cost-Utility of Attachment-Based Compassion Therapy (ABCT) for Fibromyalgia Compared to Relaxation: A Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial,” was published in the Journal of Clinical Medicine.

Known as compassion-based interventions (CBIs), this approach is reported to be effective in treating a wide range of mental health problems. To date, seven different CBIs were evaluated in clinical trials, including an approach called Attachment-Based Compassion Therapy (ABCT).

ABCT aims at strengthening a person’s ability to be considerate and kind both toward themselves and others.

Although most CBIs were designed 10 or more years ago, their cost-effectiveness compared to other wellness approaches has not been evaluated in a rigorous trial, the researchers said. Their increasing interest among clinicians and researchers, however, warrants assessing whether CBIs should be a treatment option of interest to health policymakers and other stakeholders.

A team from Spain and the U.K. compared the cost-utility of ABCT to that of relaxation therapy (REL), as assessed by quality-adjusted life years (QALYs) and healthcare costs.

QALY is a measure of disease burden that takes into account changes in quality and the quantity of life, and is used to judge from an economic viewpoint the value of a medical intervention.

Researchers enrolled 42 Spanish adults with fibromyalgia, who took part in eight weekly group sessions of either ABCT (23 patients) or REL (19) with a psychologist, followed by three booster sessions. All also had short daily at-home assignments to complete.

ABCT included practices of mindfulness and visualizations, based on self-compassion and attachment generated in childhood. Those in the REL group received a low-intensity and non-specific intervention that  included relaxation techniques, such as imagery and progressive muscle relaxation.

Data, as measured via the EuroQoL Questionnaire and other surveys,  was collected before treatment and three months after treatment.

Patients given ABCT reported greater improvements in quality of life than those on REL, results showed. Also, ACBT was less costly at three months after treatment had ended.

Direct healthcare costs per patient at three months was nearly €659 euros (about $720) in the ABCT group, and €932 ($1,007 USD) in the REL group. This difference was not seen to be statistically significant.

Three different statistical approaches then showed that ABCT was more cost-effective compared to REL, when assessing direct medical costs per QALY gained.

A calculated incremental cost-utility ratio was within the threshold of €22,000 to €25,000 per QALY gained used by Spain’s National Health Service to adopt a new technology.

As such, “ABCT might be a potential cost-effective option for FM [fibromyalgia] within the context of public healthcare practices,” the researchers wrote.

“In order to better evaluate the efficiency of ABCT for a public health system or society, in general, a longer study of at least six months to one year would be needed,” they added.