The problem of protocol driven costs in pharmacoeconomic analysis

Pharmacoeconomics. 1998 Oct;14(4):357-63. doi: 10.2165/00019053-199814040-00003.


The increasing number of economic evaluations of healthcare interventions and of drug therapies in particular has been well documented. Surveys of the quality of studies have demonstrated that standards of conduct of such studies have not similarly increased. Concerns over the standards have led to increased calls that economic analyses be more closely linked to randomised controlled clinical trials (RCT). Seven potential threats to the external validity of results limit the generalisability of studies based on RCTs. One such threat is the existence of protocol driven costs. There are two main types of protocol driven costs. Protocol prescribed costs arise as a result of resource use mandated by the clinical trial design. Protocol derived costs occur when increased clinical investigations mandated by trial protocols lead to atypical disease management. Methods to control for protocol driven costs within pharmacoeconomic study designs are available. Modelling studies can be based on data within clinical trials combined with observational data representing more typical resource use. The adoption of pragmatic clinical trial designs provide greater external validity though reduced internal validity. Refinements to explanatory clinical trials can also lead to reduced protocol driven costs. The extent that current studies control for such costs is unclear due to the lack of transparency in the reporting of study methods. A review of published studies found little consideration of protocol driven costs although in several studies there was evidence of their existence. Future studies conducted alongside RCTs should explicitly address how the issue of protocol driven costs was handled within the study framework.

MeSH terms

  • Economics, Pharmaceutical*
  • Humans
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations / economics*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic / economics*
  • Reproducibility of Results


  • Pharmaceutical Preparations