Can economic evaluation guidelines improve efficiency in resource allocation? The cases of Portugal, The Netherlands, Finland, and the United Kingdom.
Fonte: Int J Technol Assess Health Care;16(4): 1179-92, 2000.
The use of economic evaluation in decision making appears to have increased over the past few years and economic evaluation is looked upon as another measure to help contain costs and improve efficiency in an evidence-based decision-making environment. Following the examples of Australia and the Canadian Province of Ontario, four European Union (EU) countries (Finland, the Netherlands, Portugal, and the United Kingdom) have recently introduced economic evaluation guidelines. In addition to the Australian and Canadian guidelines, which constitute a hurdle to reimbursement, the paradigm that seems to be evolving in the four EU countries follows a similar route. Finland and the Netherlands seem to be moving toward the notion of a fourth hurdle to reimbursement, whereas the National Institute for Clinical Excellence in England and Wales was in principle meant to influence practice, although in reality this essentially acts as a hurdle to reimbursement, requiring a different data set to that used by regulatory authorities. Whereas the Portuguese guidelines were developed to assist in preparing economic submissions to support reimbursement decisions, they are unclear about when such evidence will be required and also discuss the dissemination of economic evidence to broader audiences. The introduction of these guidelines poses a number of challenges to policy makers, the implications of which are analyzed in the paper: a) to ensure that economic evaluations are carried out scientifically without industrial or political bias; b) to define an acceptable methodology that would increase their credibility; and c) to address certain practical issues ranging from deciding how to use economic evaluations in policy making to setting up new institutions or improving the coordination and dissemination of evidence. The variation in the use of economic evaluation guidelines in the four EU countries highlights the differences in national pharmaceutical policies and is in line with policy makers' continuous attempts to contain costs. While the paper critically discusses the guidelines, it also points out that a series of methodologic issues need to be addressed if economic criteria are to be introduced in policy making with the aim to improve resource allocation. The paper concludes that economic evaluation as a discipline is beginning to impact on policy, whereas the consistent use of economic evaluation results is, in principle, being adopted by policy makers but needs to go a step further to reach practitioners.