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Health Policy. 1997 Jun;40(3):199-215.

The role of economic evaluation in the pricing and reimbursement of medicines.

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Centre for Health Economics, University of York, Heslington, UK.


In most countries, governments or health insurers have taken initiatives to influence the price and utilization of medicines. One stated objective of these schemes is to encourage efficiency, or cost-effectiveness. In principle, economic evaluation should to be relevant to decisions about the pricing and reimbursement of health technologies, since it offers a way of estimating the additional value to society of a new intervention (e.g. medicine) relative to current therapy. However, the application of economic evaluation in drug pricing and reimbursement schemes is variable. Therefore, this paper reviews the actual and potential role of economic evaluation in different drug pricing and reimbursement schemes, such as 'free pricing' systems (United Kingdom, United States), two-stage administered systems (France), reference pricing systems (Germany, Netherlands, Sweden) and economic evaluation systems (Australia, Canada). It is concluded that, other than in the case of Australia and Canada, the potential role of economic evaluation could be greatly developed, especially in the case of new medicines, for which there is no close substitute. Comments are also given on the practical problems of using this approach. However, it is noted that economic evaluation alone cannot set a price for a medicine, since a decision has to be made about the proportion of added value going to society and the proportion going to the pharmaceutical company as a reward for innovation.

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