Background: Many economic evaluations ignore economies of scale in their cost estimation, which means that cost parameters are assumed to have a linear relationship with the level of production. Economies of scale is the situation when the average total cost of producing a product decreases with increasing volume caused by reducing the variable costs due to more efficient operation. This study investigates the significance of applying the economies of scale concept: the saving in costs gained by an increased level of production in economic evaluation of pneumococcal conjugate vaccines (PCV) and human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccinations.
Methods: The fixed and variable costs of providing partial (20% coverage) and universal (100% coverage) vaccination programs in the Philippines were estimated using various methods, including costs of conducting questionnaire survey, focus-group discussion, and analysis of secondary data. Costing parameters were utilised as inputs for the two economic evaluation models for PCV and HPV. Incremental cost-effectiveness ratios (ICERs) and 5-year budget impacts with and without applying economies of scale to the costing parameters for partial and universal coverage were compared in order to determine the effect of these different costing approaches.
Results: The program costs of the partial coverage for the two immunisation programs were not very different when applying and not applying the economies of scale concept. Nevertheless, the program costs for universal coverage were 0.26 and 0.32 times lower when applying economies of scale compared to not applying economies of scale for the pneumococcal and human papillomavirus vaccinations, respectively. ICERs varied by up to 98% for pneumococcal vaccinations, whereas the change in ICERs in the human papillomavirus vaccination depended on both the costs of cervical cancer screening and the vaccination program. This results in a significant difference in the 5-year budget impact, accounting for 30 and 40% of reduction in the 5-year budget impact for the pneumococcal and human papillomavirus vaccination programs.
Conclusions: This study demonstrated the feasibility and importance of applying economies of scale in the cost estimation in economic evaluation, which would lead to different conclusions in terms of value for money regarding the interventions, particularly with population-wide interventions such as vaccination programs. The economies of scale approach to costing is recommended for the creation of methodological guidelines for conducting economic evaluations.
Keywords: Cost estimation; Economic evaluation; Economies of scale; Human papillomavirus; Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine.