Economic evaluations are a tool for defining the value of a medicinal product in terms of cost-opportunity, from the point of view of the patient, the NHS and the society as a whole.
The definition of "value" is very broad, multidimensional and includes concepts from different disciplines, beyond the economic one. Specifically, for the economic evaluations concerning new medicinal products, innovative or not, the value is given by the marginal utility that the patient, the NHS and/or the society can obtain from its acquisition. In this regard, the measurement of the years of life gained in full quality of life (QALY – quality-adjusted life years) is widely applied to medicinal products in different regulatory contexts, although with the awareness that it is not able to grasp all the elements that contribute to value.
The World Health Organization defines "pharmacoeconomic analysis" as the set of analysis methodologies aimed at identifying, measuring and evaluating the costs and related consequences (benefits/outcomes) of two or more therapeutic alternatives. From a technical point of view, cost analyses (including budget impact analyses), cost-benefit, cost-effectiveness, cost-utility and cost-minimisation analyses fall within the pharmacoeconomic analyses.
Although the cost-effectiveness criterion has been introduced with reference to the negotiation of the price and eligibility for reimbursement of medicinal products to be charged to the NHS since 1997 (CIPE Resolution No. 5 of 30 January 1997), and then subsequently referred to also by CIPE Resolution No. 3 of 1 February 2001, it is only recently that, following the implementation of the new Regulation for the organisation, functioning and organisation of the AIFA staff, definitively adopted with Resolution No. 8 of 8 April 2016, the economic evaluations have had a practical integration in the assessment procedures by AIFA in support of the appraisal by the CTS/CPR committees.
Organisation of the economic evaluation activity
The economic evaluation activity in AIFA consists in evaluating the cost-effectiveness and sustainability profile of medicinal products as part of the process of defining the eligibility for reimbursement and the price charged to the NHS. The assessment of the economic and financial impact of medicinal products is an essential component of the Health Technology Assessment process (EUnetHTA, 2016), a systematic, multidimensional and multidisciplinary approach used at international level for the assessment of health technologies.
A further activity consists in estimating the potential economic impact of medicinal products under development that have been identified as a priority within the Horizon Scanning activities.
The process of defining the eligibility for reimbursement and price of medicinal products starts with the presentation of the reimbursement and price dossier by the pharmaceutical company and ends with the resolution of the AIFA Board of Directors and subsequent publication in the Official Journal, after obtaining the opinion of the Technical-Scientific Committee (CTS) and the Price and Reimbursement Committee (CPR). The price is determined through negotiation between AIFA and the pharmaceutical companies (Law No. 326 of 24 November 2003), in accordance with the methods and criteria identified by CIPE Resolution No. 3 of 2001. This Resolution also defines the general format of the dossier that pharmaceutical companies have to submit to AIFA, in which the company is invited to give reasons for the price and reimbursement proposal on the basis of pharmacoeconomic assessments.
Pharmacoeconomic analyses are of particular importance for the negotiation activity conducted by the CPR with the pharmaceutical companies, in particular for medicinal products that are innovative in comparison to the treatments already available and for orphan medicines for the treatment of rare diseases. To this end, AIFA prepares opinions of a non-mandatory and non-binding nature for the CPR, which constitute a support tool in the decision-making process of defining the price and eligibility for reimbursement of a medicinal product.
The preliminary investigation includes the following steps:
- critical evaluation of the pharmacoeconomic studies submitted by pharmaceutical companies within the Price and Reimbursement Dossier;
- revision of the pharmacoeconomic model where transmitted by the company in an open and editable format;
- literature review for the identification of further published pharmacoeconomic studies relating to the national or international context;
- identification of recommendations and decisions taken in other countries concerning the medicinal product under application;
- analysis of treatment costs compared to therapeutic alternatives;
- economic-financial impact assessment.
The critical evaluation of the pharmacoeconomic studies submitted by the pharmaceutical companies is carried out by verifying compliance with the standards developed by the ISPOR Task Force for cost-effectiveness and budget impact analyses (Husereau et al., 2013; Sullivan et al., 2014); moreover, for the evaluation of the quality and robustness of the studies, AIFA makes use of internationally recognized and validated tools, such as the check-lists of Drummond et al. 2015 and Philips et al., 2004.
The final opinion is sent to the HTA Secretariat for discussion in plenary and subsequently to the members of the Committees within the preliminary documentation.