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Health Econ. 2007 Feb;16(2):179-93.

Seeing the NICE side of cost-effectiveness analysis: a qualitative investigation of the use of CEA in NICE technology appraisals.

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  • 1Health Economics Facility, University of Birmingham, 40 Edgbaston Park Road, Birmingham, UK.


Resource scarcity is the raison d'ĂȘtre for the discipline of economics. Thus, the primary purpose of economic analysis is to help decision-makers when addressing problems arising due to the scarcity problem. The research reported here was concerned with how cost-effectiveness information is used by the National Institute for Health & Clinical Excellence (NICE) in national technology coverage decisions in the UK, and how its impact might be increased. The research followed a qualitative case study methodology with semi-structured interviews, supported by observation and analysis of secondary sources. Our research highlights that the technology appraisal function of NICE represents an important progression for the UK health economics community: new cost-effectiveness work is commissioned for each technology and that work directly informs national health policy. However, accountability in policy decisions necessitates that the information upon which decisions are based (including cost-effectiveness analysis, CEA) is accessible. This was found to be a serious problem and represents one of the main ongoing challenges. Other issues highlighted include perceived weaknesses in analysis methods and the poor alignment between the health maximisation objectives assumed in economic analyses and the range of other objectives facing decision-makers in reality.

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