Objective: We describe the heterogeneity of the estimates of the incremental cost per quality-adjusted year of life (QALY) within and between cost-utility studies of the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine.
Method: We searched for articles in English published in peer-reviewed journals that perform cost-utility analyses to evaluate the addition of HPV vaccine to 12-year-old girls to existing cervical cancer screening practices. Fifteen studies were selected according to our inclusion and exclusion criteria.
Results: There are large within-study variations in estimates of the cost per QALY gained. The most influential source of uncertainty is the duration of the vaccine protection. Between-study variations are mainly due to three causes: methodological differences, assumptions, and local conditions in the application area. We find large variations between studies for a given country.
Discussion: Economic evaluation models are increasingly sophisticated, but scientific treatment of epidemiological and market uncertainty does not compensate for the lack of basic information.
Conclusions: The large disparities in cost per QALY estimates of massive vaccination programs around the world may be attributed to several critical sources (unavoidable and avoidable) of uncertainty. An asset of economic evaluation is the ability to highlight the areas of research that could be undertaken to reduce uncertainty.