Implementing reflective multicriteria decision analysis (MCDA) to assess orphan drugs value in the Catalan Health Service (CatSalut)

Orphanet J Rare Dis. 2019 Jun 27;14(1):157. doi: 10.1186/s13023-019-1121-6.


Background: Orphan medicines show some characteristics that hinder the evaluation of their clinical added value. The often low level of evidence available for orphan drugs, together with a high budget impact and an incremental cost-effectiveness ratio many times higher than drugs used for non-orphan diseases, represent challenges in their appraisal and effective access to clinical use. In order to explore how to handle these hurdles, the Catalan Health Service (CatSalut) began an initiative on a multidimensional assessment of drugs value during the appraisal process. Reflective multicriteria decision analysis (MCDA) using analytical methods was chosen, since it may help to standardise and contextualize all the relevant data related with the drug that could contribute to a decision. The aim of the study was to determine whether the implementation of reflective MCDA methodology could support the decision-making process about orphan medicines in the context of CatSalut.

Methods: The assessment and decision-making process for orphan drugs in the Programa d'Harmonització Farmacoterapeutica (PHF) of CatSalut was prioritized to test the implementation of the reflective MCDA both a qualitative and quantitatively. A staged approach was used with the following main steps: selection and structuration of quantitative criteria (Core Model) and qualitative criteria (Contextual Tool), framework scoring and assessment of three orphan drug case studies. This proof-of-concept would grant a continued refinement of the methodology and, if and when validated, its potential integration to other therapeutic areas of the PHF.

Results: The final framework was composed by 10 quantitative criteria (Core Model) and 4 qualitative criteria (Contextual Tool) according to the PHF goals being the most important criteria "disease severity", "unmet need", "comparative effectiveness" and "comparative safety /tolerability". The matrix developed for the case studies served as a guide for the selection of the essential information that the decision-makers were expected to include in a framework. The reflective discussion was considered the most relevant phase of the approach to support inputs for health decision-making processes reflecting both drug value and place in therapy.

Conclusions: The study showed that reflective MCDA methodology could be implemented to complement the decision-making process in CatSalut, as an aid to determine the clinical added value for orphan medicines. MCDA provided transparency and a structured discussion during the committee meetings, thus increasing transparency and predictability of the relevant items supporting the agreements adopted on orphan drugs access.

Keywords: Catalan healthcare; Decision-making; Multi-criteria decision analysis; Orphan drugs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Decision Making
  • Decision Support Techniques
  • Humans
  • Orphan Drug Production / methods*