Introduction: Smoking is a major cause of disease burden and reduced quality of life for people with severe mental illness (SMI). It places significant resource pressure on health systems and financial stress on smokers with SMI (SSMI). Telephone-based smoking cessation interventions have been shown to be cost effective in general populations. However, evidence suggests that SSMI are less likely to be referred to quitlines, and little is known about the effectiveness and cost effectiveness of such interventions that specifically target SSMI. The Quitlink randomized controlled trial for accessible smoking cessation support for SSMI aims to bridge this gap. This paper describes the protocol for evaluating the cost effectiveness of Quitlink.
Methods: Quitlink will be implemented in the Australian setting, utilizing the existing mental health peer workforce to link SSMI to a tailored quitline service. The effectiveness of Quitlink will be evaluated in a clustered randomized controlled trial. A cost-effectiveness evaluation will be conducted alongside the Quitlink clustered randomized controlled trial (RCT) with incremental cost-effectiveness ratios (ICERs) calculated for the cost (AUD) per successful quit and quality adjusted life year (QALY) gained at 8 months compared with usual care from both health care system and limited societal perspectives. Financial implications for study participants will also be investigated. A modeled cost-effectiveness analysis will also be conducted to estimate future costs and benefits associated with any treatment effect observed during the trial. Results will be extrapolated to estimate the cost effectiveness of rolling out Quitlink nationally. Sensitivity analyses will be undertaken to assess the impact on results from plausible variations in all modeled variables.
Discussion: SSMI require additional support to quit. Quitlink utilizes existing peer worker and quitline workforces and tailors quitline support specifically to provide that increased cessation support. Given Quitlink engages these existing skilled workforces, it is hypothesized that, if found to be effective, it will also be found to be both cost effective and scalable. This protocol describes the economic evaluation of Quitlink that will assess these hypotheses.
Ethics and dissemination: Full ethics clearances have been received for the methods described below from the University of Newcastle (Australia) Human Research Ethics Committee (H-2018-0192) and St Vincent’s Hospital, Melbourne (HREC/18/SVHM/154). The trial has been registered with the Australian and New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry (ACTRN12619000244101). Participant consent is sought both to participate in the study and to have the study data linked to routine health administrative data on publicly subsidized health service and pharmaceutical use, specifically the Medicare Benefits and Pharmaceutical Benefits Schemes (MBS/PBS). Trial findings (including economic evaluation) will be published in peer reviewed journals and presented at international conferences. Collected data and analyses will be made available in accordance with journal policies and study ethics approvals. Results will be presented to relevant government authorities with an interest in cost effectiveness of these types of interventions.