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Health Policy. 2007 Feb;80(2):340-57. Epub 2006 May 6.

Current impact of gene technology on healthcare. A map of economic assessments.

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  • 1GSF, National Research Center for Environment and Health, Institute of Health Economics and Health Care Management, P.O. Box 1129, D-85758 Neuherberg, Germany.



It has been claimed that gene technology will induce revolutionary changes in healthcare. This paper investigates how and to what extent these changes have been economically assessed.


A generic framework was developed to distinguish between methodologically similar evaluations of healthcare technology. Methodological issues and the current state of economic evidence concerning human DNA technology were extracted from publications within these groups of evaluations.


Economic evaluations of "healthcare consisting of gene technology" were identified primarily for in vitro diagnostics for hereditary disease and others for pharmacogenetics and molecular pathology. "Healthcare enabled by gene technology" is far more encompassing and includes, e.g., biotechnology drugs for which various health economic evaluations can be found. Yet here, the impact of gene technology intertwines with the impact of other technologies and is therefore hardly susceptible to evaluation. The fields of evaluation may be classified best according to the two dimensions "purpose" and "stage of development". Current evaluations cover screening, diagnostic and treatment technologies in investigational, new and established stages. Apart from prenatal screening, healthcare consisting of gene technology was cost saving only for genotype tests replacing continuous phenotype tests and for one pharmacogenetic test. Conclusive evidence of favourable cost-effectiveness ratios is available only for few conditions.


Hypotheses about the impact of gene technology on healthcare must be explicit about the definition of "genetic" medicine. A general statement regarding healthcare enabled by gene technology is not possible. Based on current evidence, an era of healthcare consisting of gene technology built on widespread predictive testing is not desirable from a health economic viewpoint.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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