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Expert Rev Pharmacoecon Outcomes Res. 2005 Feb;5(1):59-63. doi: 10.1586/14737167.5.1.59.

Towards a healthier discount procedure.

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  • 1University of Groningen, Groningen University, Institute for Drug Exploration, Research Institute of Pharmacy (GUIDE/GRIP), Groningen, The Netherlands.


Most national guidelines for pharmacoeconomic research prescribe discounting, mostly of money and health against the same rate. There is much debate on whether this is adequate. Two theoretical arguments, the consistency argument of Weinstein and Stason, and the paralyzing paradox of Keeler and Cretin, are mostly responsible for the current standards. However, more recently, several authors have indicated that the basis to claim the necessity of using similar discount rates is rather weak, both practically and theoretically. In terms of finding a new theoretical basis on which to base discount rates for money and, in particular, health, Van Hout has made an important suggestion arguing that the discount rate for health could be based on the expected growth in life expectancy and the diminishing marginal utility related to such additional health. Similarly, Gravelle and Smith argue that if the value of health grows over time, discount rates that are used for costs cannot directly be applied to effects, but should be adjusted downwards.

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