Introduction: Despite the growing recognition of the potential applications of cost-effectiveness assessments, a criterion to establish what is an efficient health technology does not exist in Spain. The objective of this work is to describe the limits and the criteria used in Spain to recommend the adoption of health interventions.
Method: A review of the economic evaluations of health technologies published in Spain from 1990 to 2001 was conducted. Complete economic assessments in which the cost-effectiveness ratio was expressed as cost per life-year gained (LYG), cost per quality-adjusted-life-year (QALY) or cost per saved live were selected. Those interventions in which the authors established recommendations (adoption or rejection) and the criteria used were analyzed.
Results: Twenty (20%) of the 100 complete economic evaluations fulfilled the selection criteria. In16 studies, the results were expressed as cost per LYG, in 6 studies as cost per QALY and in 1 as cost per saved live. A total of 82 health interventions were assessed and some kind of recommendation was established in 44 of them. All technologies with a cost-effectiveness ratio lower than 30,000 euros (5 million pesetas) per LYG were recommended for adoption by the authors. Up to that limit there was no a clear tendency.
Conclusions: Although the results must be interpreted with much precaution, given the limitations of the study, the limits of cost-effectiveness presented in this work could be a first reference to which would be an efficient health intervention in Spain.