Background: Cost-effectiveness evidence is increasingly considered in the reimbursement decisions of pharmaceuticals. In some jurisdictions such as the UK and Canada, pharmaceutical manufacturers are required to submit economic evaluations when seeking reimbursement.
Objectives: Our objectives were to describe the role of economic evidence in the cancer drug review process in Canada, and to investigate the nature of problems encountered in the review and interpretation of economic evidence used in the process.
Design: We conducted a retrospective review of cancer drug review meeting minutes and reviewers' comments on pharmacoeconomic studies submitted to the oncology drug review process in Canada.
Data sources: We used pharmacoeconomic reviewers' reports and relevant cancer drug review expert advisory committee meeting minutes during the first year of the review process (April 2007 to March 2008).
Results: Fifteen economic submissions were reviewed. One-third of the studies had flaws significant enough that the advisory committee could not determine the cost effectiveness of the drugs from the results. The common issues outlined by the reviewers and committee were related to the uncertainty of comparative clinical benefits, quality of life and costs. The reviewers felt that few analyses provided sufficient sensitivity analyses around key variables to assess the robustness of results. Most problems identified by reviewers are simple to fix and do not involve advanced methods.
Conclusions: Canada has a separate review process for making cancer drug funding recommendations, and this process uses both clinical and economic evidence. The committee could not determine the value for money of the drugs from several of the submitted pharmacoeconomic analyses. Transparent analyses and detailed critique of evidence are crucial to the use of economic evidence in reimbursement decisions. Rigorous evaluation is resource intensive and may benefit from a shared drug review process among several jurisdictions.