Raising the quality of cost-utility analyses: lessons learnt and still to learn

Health Policy. 1999 Mar;46(3):217-38. doi: 10.1016/s0168-8510(98)00061-x.


Heightened awareness by health care funders of the need to find more efficient ways of using scarce health care resources has led to greater demand for evidence of cost-effectiveness. Implicit in this demand is that evidence is generated using clear reporting and accepted methods. The research reported here updates an earlier review of published cost-utility analyses (CUAs) to address whether previously identified gaps in reporting have diminished over time. Raising CUA standards requires systematic and regular reviews of published material to allow adequate monitoring and evaluation. There is also a need to 'appraise the appraisers' in the sense of reviewing peer-review processes. This is particularly so in those journals which are growing in importance as outlets for economic evaluation information. The findings from this study indicate continuing variation in the quality of reporting. At the lower end of this spectrum improvements could be made in the reporting of comparators, in the clarity of effectiveness evidence, in the assignment of utility weights to health states and in reporting of sensitivity analysis. CUAs published in peer-reviewed specialist medical journals were more likely to be lower in quality suggesting guidance on the appraisal of economic submissions needs to be extended to the editors of these particular journals. These findings could be used to help to target attempts to raise the quality of evidence-based CUA information.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Australia
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis / standards*
  • Health Care Rationing
  • Health Services Research / methods
  • Health Services Research / standards*
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Peer Review, Research