June 25, 2018

Cost-effectiveness of new (genomic) benefits, it's just the begining

HERC database of health economics and genomics studies 
Cost-effectiveness of cell-free DNA in maternal blood testing for prenatal detection of trisomy 21, 18 and 13: a systematic review

Just yesterday our government suddenly decided to introduce a new benefit in public insurance coverage: contingent DNA based non-invasive prenatal screening. And the question is: does someone know if this new benefit is cost-effective?
You can get the answer after reading this review article, and the summary is:
 In total, 12 studies were included, four of them performed in Europe. Three studies evaluated NIPT as a contingent test, three studies evaluated a universal NIPT, and six studies evaluated both. The results are heterogeneous, especially for the contingent NIPT where the results range from NIPT being dominant to a dominated strategy. Universal NIPT was found to be more effective but also costlier than the usual screening, with very high incremental cost-effectiveness ratios. One advantage of screening with NIPT is lower invasive procedure-related foetal losses than with usual screening. In conclusion, the cost-effectiveness of contingent NIPT is uncertain according to several studies, while the universal NIPT is not cost-effective currently.
If this is so, since uncertainty is the word that better reflects its current cost-effectiveness, why do the have introduced? Because they don't care about it. These are not the best days for a health economist (and for the society as a whole). Maybe it's just the begining of a new world without scarcity, and I can figure out.

Manuel Anoro

June 24, 2018

Health care access in EU

BENCHMARKING ACCESS TO HEALTHCARE IN THE EU.Report of the Expert Panel on effective ways of investing in Health

If access is one of the main features of any health system, we do need better measures to understand the current situation. This is my conclusion after reading the report. Differences across EU countries (and within countries!) are huge in unmet needs , in copayments, in catastrophic expenditures... The surprising figure for me was that Spain is at the top of out of pocket expenditures as a share of household expenditures (3.5%) with Latvia. I have to check it. If so, bad news. Universal healthcare is being questioned. Does someone care about it?

June 17, 2018

Cost-effectiveness of genome sequencing (3)

Application of next-generation sequencing to improve cancer management: A review of the clinical effectiveness and cost-effectiveness

Once again, there is no need for cost-effectiveness if there is not a clear message on the analytical validity, clinical validity and utility of a diagnostic test.
A new article want to shed light on cancer and NGS, and says:
Our search for cost‐effectiveness studies on NGS in cancer care yielded 2037 articles. Only 6 articles included cost‐effectiveness studies of the application of NGS (targeted gene panel) in cancer

The 6 selected reports could be separated into 2 types. Three of the articles assessed the cost‐effectiveness of recommending patients receiving targeted therapy matching their genetic mutation identified via NGS; and the remaining 3 articles assessed the cost‐effectiveness of using NGS as part of the screening program to direct patients or high risk family members into prophylactic treatment

Two out of 3 articles in the “targeted therapy” group reported that NGS and targeted therapy was not cost-effective (Table 3A), using an ICER threshold of US$100 000 per Quality Adjusted Life
Year (QALY) gained. An ICER of less than US$100 000/QALYs gained is generally considered favourable for funding in the United States

Two out of the 3 articles in the “screening” group reported that the use of NGS was cost‐effective (Table 3B), that is, under US$100 000 per QALY gained.loser surveillance.
 In our evaluation of the effectiveness of NGS, we found that NGS is effective at identifying mutations in cancer patients, and we reported that 37% of the diagnosed patients proceeded to receive therapy matching their genetic profile. However, with only 6 articles available that assess the cost-effectiveness of NGS in various settings, it remains an area for future research to determine whether the technology is cost-effective in routine cancer management
Summary: the message is that there is no message with such a few observations!

Something is being missed...

June 16, 2018

Value creators and extractors

The Value of Everything: Making and Taking in the Global Economy

The rethorics of value is usually plagued with deliberate misunderstandings. Specially, those that quote themselves as value creators may appear on a close look as a value extractors. This is precisely what the book of Marianna Mazucatto does. It identifies the patterns to assess value creation and extraction and the private of public and private roles.Chapter 7 on Extracting Value through the Innovation Economy is specially helpful. You'll find there the patents as a value extraction process or the pharmaceutical pricing discussed in detail. Therefore, a must read.
In modern capitalism, value-extraction is rewarded more highly than value-creation: the productive process that drives a healthy economy and society. From companies driven solely to maximize shareholder value to astronomically high prices of medicines justified through big pharma's 'value pricing', we misidentify taking with making, and have lost sight of what value really means. Once a central plank of economic thought, this concept of value - what it is, why it matters to us - is simply no longer discussed.
 The logical outcome of a combination of monopoly and rigid demand is sky-high prices, and this is precisely what is happening with specialty drugs. It explains why pharmaceutical companies enjoy absurdly high profit margins: in addition to the normal profit rate, they earn huge monopoly rents.59 A value-based assessment of the kind NICE carries out can be helpful because it reduces demand for the monopolists’ drugs and prevents them from charging whatever price they choose. The downside, however, is that increased elasticity of demand for drugs comes at the cost of leaving some patients without the medicines they need, because pharmaceutical companies may not cut their prices enough to treat everyone who needs the drug if doing so would reduce profit margins by more than the companies want.

June 3, 2018

The improvement of the healthcare access and quality

Measuring performance on the Healthcare Access and Quality Index for 195 countries and territories and selected subnational locations: a systematic analysis from the Global Burden of Disease Study 2016

While the global consensus on universal health care is a fact, healthcare access is really diverse. Among countries you can check the differences in the new article that has appeared in Lancet.
From 1990 to 2016, 186 of 195 countries and territories significantly increased their HAQ Index score, with several middle-SDI countries, including China, the Maldives, Equatorial Guinea, Peru, and Thailand achieving among the most pronounced gains. 
 In 2016, HAQ Index performance spanned from a high of 97·1 (95% UI 95·8–98·1) in Iceland, followed by 96·6 (94·9–97·9) in Norway and 96·1 (94·5–97·3) in the Netherlands, to values as low as 18·6 (13·1–24·4) in the Central African Republic, 19·0 (14·3–23·7) in Somalia, and 23·4 (20·2–26·8) in Guinea-Bissau. The pace of progress achieved between 1990 and 2016 varied, with markedly faster improvements occurring between 2000 and 2016 for many countries in sub-Saharan Africa and southeast Asia, whereas several countries in Latin America and elsewhere saw progress stagnate after experiencing considerable advances in the HAQ Index between 1990 and 2000. Striking subnational disparities emerged in personal health-care access and quality, with China and India having particularly large gaps between locations with the highest and lowest scores in 2016. In China, performance ranged from 91·5 (89·1–93·6) in Beijing to 48·0 (43·4–53·2) in Tibet (a 43·5-point difference), while India saw a 30·8-point disparity, from 64·8 (59·6–68·8) in Goa to 34·0 (30·3–38·1) in Assam.
 The measurement has been done with 32 causes from which death should not occur in the presence of effective care to approximate personal health-care access and quality by location and over time. This means that death registries should be available and reliable, and we know that there is no standard practice across countries. Anyway, the message is clear, most of the world is improving access to better healthcare and this is good news.

Aminata’ (2013) by Omar Victor Diop

May 25, 2018

The p53 nightmare

p53 and Me

This week you'll find a short piece in NEJM, a story written by a physician on how detecting a genetic p53 mutation changed her views. Key message:
Genetic knowledge is power only if both clinician and patient are equipped to move beyond a result and toward action, even if that merely means living well with what we know. I believe we need an expanded definition of genetic counseling; we require more data, yes, but also more sophisticated and sensitive ways of assimilating such data. And not just into databases we can mine to see what happens to people like me, but into programs for learning to live with uncertainty.

May 23, 2018

The spanish flu, a century later

Pale Rider: The Spanish Flu of 1918 and How it Changed the World

Laura Spinney has made a great job with her latest book "The Pale Rider". For those that are interested on the largest recent epidemy and public health crisis -the spanish flu of 1918,- this is the book to read. I enjoyed specially the details of what should be avoided, and nobody cared about it. The conflict between religion and medicine. You'll not get the precise number of deaths, but it was an enormous tragedy in social terms.
The book also explains how physicians were exposed to the disease without any tools and how it was arriving to the remote and less inhabited places of the world.
It is specially helpful to recognise how vulnerable are all of us, still now. Highly recommended.

PS. You'll find it also in spanish, "El jinete pálido"