The U.K. NHS economic evaluation database. Economic issues in evaluations of health technology

Int J Technol Assess Health Care. 2000 Summer;16(3):731-42. doi: 10.1017/s0266462300102016.


Objective: The U.K. NHS Economic Evaluation Database (EED) project is commissioned to identify papers on economic evaluations of health technologies and to disseminate their findings to NHS decision makers by means of structured abstracts that are available through a public database and the Cochrane Library. This paper discusses current issues relating to the economic aspects of producing NHS EED abstracts.

Methods: A review of NHS EED was undertaken between 1994 and 1999 to determine the methodologies adopted and issues that influence the usefulness of economic evaluations. Methods adopted to improve the quality of NHS EED abstracts are also reported.

Results: Eighty-five percent of NHS EED abstracts are cost-effectiveness analyses (CEAs), 9.3% are cost-utility analyses (CUAs), and only 1.4% are cost-benefit analyses (CBAs). Of the total abstracts, 65.9% are based on single studies, 19.5% on reviews, 3.9% on estimates of effectiveness, and 10.7% on combinations of these sources. Models are utilized in 16.7% of CEAs, 60.2% of CUAs, and 20% of CBAs. Analyses of CBA studies reveal a degree of misuse of well-established definitions. NHS EED internal control mechanisms are reported that provide a means of ensuring that abstracts are based on sound academic principles.

Conclusions: Most economic evaluations are conducted by means of CEA, followed by CUA, while CBA accounts for an extreme minority of cases. Single studies form the principal source of effectiveness data, although models are widely used, principally in CUA. The structure of NHS EED abstracts provides decision makers with the principal results and an interpretation of the relative strengths and weaknesses of economic evaluations.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Abstracting and Indexing*
  • Cost Savings
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Databases, Bibliographic*
  • Diffusion of Innovation
  • Health Planning
  • Humans
  • State Medicine
  • Technology Assessment, Biomedical / economics*
  • United Kingdom