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1.  Managing resources in NHS dentistry: using health economics to inform commissioning decisions 
The aim of this study is to develop, apply and evaluate an economics-based framework to assist commissioners in their management of finite resources for local dental services. In April 2006, Primary Care Trusts in England were charged with managing finite dental budgets for the first time, yet several independent reports have since criticised the variability in commissioning skills within these organisations. The study will explore the views of stakeholders (dentists, patients and commissioners) regarding priority setting and the criteria used for decision-making and resource allocation. Two inter-related case studies will explore the dental commissioning and resource allocation processes through the application of a pragmatic economics-based framework known as Programme Budgeting and Marginal Analysis.
The study will adopt an action research approach. Qualitative methods including semi-structured interviews, focus groups, field notes and document analysis will record the views of participants and their involvement in the research process. The first case study will be based within a Primary Care Trust where mixed methods will record the views of dentists, patients and dental commissioners on issues, priorities and processes associated with managing local dental services. A Programme Budgeting and Marginal Analysis framework will be applied to determine the potential value of economic principles to the decision-making process. A further case study will be conducted in a secondary care dental teaching hospital using the same approach. Qualitative data will be analysed using thematic analysis and managed using a framework approach.
The recent announcement by government regarding the proposed abolition of Primary Care Trusts may pose challenges for the research team regarding their engagement with the research study. However, whichever commissioning organisations are responsible for resource allocation for dental services in the future; resource scarcity is highly likely to remain an issue. Wider understanding of the complexities of priority setting and resource allocation at local levels are important considerations in the development of dental commissioning processes, national oral health policy and the future new dental contract which is expected to be implemented in April 2014.
PMCID: PMC3123177  PMID: 21627819
2.  Male Circumcision at Different Ages in Rwanda: A Cost-Effectiveness Study 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(1):e1000211.
Agnes Binagwaho and colleagues predict that circumcision of newborn boys would be effective and cost-saving as a long-term strategy to prevent HIV in Rwanda.
There is strong evidence showing that male circumcision (MC) reduces HIV infection and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs). In Rwanda, where adult HIV prevalence is 3%, MC is not a traditional practice. The Rwanda National AIDS Commission modelled cost and effects of MC at different ages to inform policy and programmatic decisions in relation to introducing MC. This study was necessary because the MC debate in Southern Africa has focused primarily on MC for adults. Further, this is the first time, to our knowledge, that a cost-effectiveness study on MC has been carried out in a country where HIV prevalence is below 5%.
Methods and Findings
A cost-effectiveness model was developed and applied to three hypothetical cohorts in Rwanda: newborns, adolescents, and adult men. Effectiveness was defined as the number of HIV infections averted, and was calculated as the product of the number of people susceptible to HIV infection in the cohort, the HIV incidence rate at different ages, and the protective effect of MC; discounted back to the year of circumcision and summed over the life expectancy of the circumcised person. Direct costs were based on interviews with experienced health care providers to determine inputs involved in the procedure (from consumables to staff time) and related prices. Other costs included training, patient counselling, treatment of adverse events, and promotion campaigns, and they were adjusted for the averted lifetime cost of health care (antiretroviral therapy [ART], opportunistic infection [OI], laboratory tests). One-way sensitivity analysis was performed by varying the main inputs of the model, and thresholds were calculated at which each intervention is no longer cost-saving and at which an intervention costs more than one gross domestic product (GDP) per capita per life-year gained. Results: Neonatal MC is less expensive than adolescent and adult MC (US$15 instead of US$59 per procedure) and is cost-saving (the cost-effectiveness ratio is negative), even though savings from infant circumcision will be realized later in time. The cost per infection averted is US$3,932 for adolescent MC and US$4,949 for adult MC. Results for infant MC appear robust. Infant MC remains highly cost-effective across a reasonable range of variation in the base case scenario. Adolescent MC is highly cost-effective for the base case scenario but this high cost-effectiveness is not robust to small changes in the input variables. Adult MC is neither cost-saving nor highly cost-effective when considering only the direct benefit for the circumcised man.
The study suggests that Rwanda should be simultaneously scaling up circumcision across a broad range of age groups, with high priority to the very young. Infant MC can be integrated into existing health services (i.e., neonatal visits and vaccination sessions) and over time has better potential than adolescent and adult circumcision to achieve the very high coverage of the population required for maximal reduction of HIV incidence. In the presence of infant MC, adolescent and adult MC would evolve into a “catch-up” campaign that would be needed at the start of the program but would eventually become superfluous.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) has killed more than 25 million people since 1981 and more than 31 million people (22 million in sub-Saharan Africa alone) are now infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which causes AIDS. There is no cure for HIV/AIDS and no vaccine against HIV infection. Consequently, prevention of HIV transmission is extremely important. HIV is most often spread through unprotected sex with an infected partner. Individuals can reduce their risk of HIV infection, therefore, by abstaining from sex, by having one or a few sexual partners, and by always using a male or female condom. In addition, male circumcision—the removal of the foreskin, the loose fold of skin that covers the head of penis—can halve HIV transmission rates to men resulting from sex with women. Thus, as part of its HIV prevention strategy, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that male circumcision programs be scaled up in countries where there is a generalized HIV epidemic and where few men are circumcised.
Why Was This Study Done?
One such country is Rwanda. Here, 3% of the adult population is infected with HIV but only 15% of men are circumcised—worldwide, about 30% of men are circumcised. Demand for circumcision is increasing in Rwanda but, before policy makers introduce a country-wide male circumcision program, they need to identify the most cost-effective way to increase circumcision rates. In particular, they need to decide the age at which circumcision should be offered. Circumcision soon after birth (neonatal circumcision) is quick and simple and rarely causes any complications. Circumcision of adolescents and adults is more complex and has a higher complication rate. Although several studies have investigated the cost-effectiveness (the balance between the clinical and financial costs of a medical intervention and its benefits) of circumcision in adult men, little is known about its cost-effectiveness in newborn boys. In this study, which is one of several studies on male circumcision being organized by the National AIDS Control Commission in Rwanda, the researchers model the cost-effectiveness of circumcision at different ages.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers developed a simple cost-effectiveness model and applied it to three hypothetical groups of Rwandans: newborn boys, adolescent boys, and adult men. For their model, the researchers calculated the effectiveness of male circumcision (the number of HIV infections averted) by estimating the reduction in the annual number of new HIV infections over time. They obtained estimates of the costs of circumcision (including the costs of consumables, staff time, and treatment of complications) from health care providers and adjusted these costs for the money saved through not needing to treat HIV in males in whom circumcision prevented infection. Using their model, the researchers estimate that each neonatal male circumcision would cost US$15 whereas each adolescent or adult male circumcision would cost US$59. Neonatal male circumcision, they report, would be cost-saving. That is, over a lifetime, neonatal male circumcision would save more money than it costs. Finally, using the WHO definition of cost-effectiveness (for a cost-effective intervention, the additional cost incurred to gain one year of life must be less than a country's per capita gross domestic product), the researchers estimate that, although adolescent circumcision would be highly cost-effective, circumcision of adult men would only be potentially cost-effective (but would likely prove cost-effective if the additional infections that would occur from men to their partners without a circumcision program were also taken into account).
What Do These Findings Mean?
As with all modeling studies, the accuracy of these findings depends on the many assumptions included in the model. However, the findings suggest that male circumcision for infants for the prevention of HIV infection later in life is highly cost-effective and likely to be cost-saving and that circumcision for adolescents is cost-effective. The researchers suggest, therefore, that policy makers in Rwanda and in countries with similar HIV infection and circumcision rates should scale up male circumcision programs across all age groups, with high priority being given to the very young. If infants are routinely circumcised, they suggest, circumcision of adolescent and adult males would become a “catch-up” campaign that would be needed at the start of the program but that would become superfluous over time. Such an approach would represent a switch from managing the HIV epidemic as an emergency towards focusing on sustainable, long-term solutions to this major public-health problem.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
This study is further discussed in a PLoS Medicine Perspective by Seth Kalichman
Information is available from the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases on HIV infection and AIDS
Information is available from the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) on HIV infection and AIDS and on male circumcision in relation to HIV and AIDS
HIV InSite has comprehensive information on all aspects of HIV/AIDS
Information is available from Avert, an international AIDS charity on many aspects of HIV/AIDS, including information on HIV and AIDS in Africa, and on circumcision and HIV (some information in English and Spanish)
More information about male circumcision is available from the Clearinghouse on Male Circumcision
The National AIDS Control Commission of Rwanda provides detailed information about HIV/AIDS in Rwanda (in English and French)
PMCID: PMC2808207  PMID: 20098721
3.  Promoting community participation in priority setting in district health systems: experiences from Mbarali district, Tanzania 
Global Health Action  2013;6:10.3402/gha.v6i0.22669.
Community participation in priority setting in health systems has gained importance all over the world, particularly in resource-poor settings where governments have often failed to provide adequate public-sector services for their citizens. Incorporation of public views into priority setting is perceived as a means to restore trust, improve accountability, and secure cost-effective priorities within healthcare. However, few studies have reported empirical experiences of involving communities in priority setting in developing countries. The aim of this article is to provide the experience of implementing community participation and the challenges of promoting it in the context of resource-poor settings, weak organizations, and fragile democratic institutions.
Key informant interviews were conducted with the Council Health Management Team (CHMT), community representatives, namely women, youth, elderly, disabled, and people living with HIV/AIDS, and other stakeholders who participated in the preparation of the district annual budget and health plans. Additionally, minutes from the Action Research Team and planning and priority-setting meeting reports were analyzed.
A number of benefits were reported: better identification of community needs and priorities, increased knowledge of the community representatives about priority setting, increased transparency and accountability, promoted trust among health systems and communities, and perceived improved quality and accessibility of health services. However, lack of funds to support the work of the selected community representatives, limited time for deliberations, short notice for the meetings, and lack of feedback on the approved priorities constrained the performance of the community representatives. Furthermore, the findings show the importance of external facilitation and support in enabling health professionals and community representatives to arrive at effective working arrangement.
Community participation in priority setting in developing countries, characterized by weak democratic institutions and low public awareness, requires effective mobilization of both communities and health systems. In addition, this study confirms that community participation is an important element in strengthening health systems.
PMCID: PMC3841300  PMID: 24280341
community participation; priority setting; district health systems; Tanzania
4.  Improving the use of research evidence in guideline development: 2. Priority setting 
The World Health Organization (WHO), like many other organisations around the world, has recognised the need to use more rigorous processes to ensure that health care recommendations are informed by the best available research evidence. This is the second of a series of 16 reviews that have been prepared as background for advice from the WHO Advisory Committee on Health Research to WHO on how to achieve this.
We reviewed the literature on priority setting for health care guidelines, recommendations and technology assessments.
We searched PubMed and three databases of methodological studies for existing systematic reviews and relevant methodological research. We did not conduct systematic reviews ourselves. Our conclusions are based on the available evidence, consideration of what WHO and other organisations are doing and logical arguments.
Key questions and answers
There is little empirical evidence to guide the choice of criteria and processes for establishing priorities, but there are broad similarities in the criteria that are used by various organisations and practical arguments for setting priorities explicitly rather than implicitly,
What criteria should be used to establish priorities?
• WHO has limited resources and capacity to develop recommendations. It should use these resources where it has the greatest chance of improving health, equity, and efficient use of healthcare resources.
• We suggest the following criteria for establishing priorities for developing recommendations based on WHO's aims and strategic advantages:
• Problems associated with a high burden of illness in low and middle-income countries, or new and emerging diseases.
• No existing recommendations of good quality.
• The feasibility of developing recommendations that will improve health outcomes, reduce inequities or reduce unnecessary costs if they are implemented.
• Implementation is feasible, will not exhaustively use available resources, and barriers to change are not likely to be so high that they cannot be overcome.
• Additional priorities for WHO include interventions that will likely require system changes and interventions where there might be a conflict in choices between individual and societal perspectives.
What processes should be used to agree on priorities?
• The allocation of resources to the development of recommendations should be part of the routine budgeting process rather than a separate exercise.
• Criteria for establishing priorities should be applied using a systematic and transparent process.
• Because data to inform judgements are often lacking, unmeasured factors should also be considered – explicitly and transparently.
• The process should include consultation with potential end users and other stakeholders, including the public, using well-constructed questions, and possibly using Delphi-like procedures.
• Groups that include stakeholders and people with relevant types of expertise should make decisions. Group processes should ensure full participation by all members of the group.
• The process used to select topics should be documented and open to inspection.
Should WHO have a centralised or decentralised process?
• Both centralised and decentralised processes should be used. Decentralised processes can be considered as separate "tracks".
• Separate tracks should be used for considering issues for specific areas, populations, conditions or concerns. The rationales for designating special tracks should be defined clearly; i.e. why they warrant special consideration.
• Updating of guidelines could also be considered as a separate "track", taking account of issues such as the need for corrections and the availability of new evidence.
PMCID: PMC1702532  PMID: 17134481
5.  What do hospital decision-makers in Ontario, Canada, have to say about the fairness of priority setting in their institutions? 
Priority setting, also known as rationing or resource allocation, occurs at all levels of every health care system. Daniels and Sabin have proposed a framework for priority setting in health care institutions called 'accountability for reasonableness', which links priority setting to theories of democratic deliberation. Fairness is a key goal of priority setting. According to 'accountability for reasonableness', health care institutions engaged in priority setting have a claim to fairness if they satisfy four conditions of relevance, publicity, appeals/revision, and enforcement. This is the first study which has surveyed the views of hospital decision makers throughout an entire health system about the fairness of priority setting in their institutions. The purpose of this study is to elicit hospital decision-makers' self-report of the fairness of priority setting in their hospitals using an explicit conceptual framework, 'accountability for reasonableness'.
160 Ontario hospital Chief Executive Officers, or their designates, were asked to complete a survey questionnaire concerning priority setting in their publicly funded institutions. Eight-six Ontario hospitals completed this survey, for a response rate of 54%. Six close-ended rating scale questions (e.g. Overall, how fair is priority setting at your hospital?), and 3 open-ended questions (e.g. What do you see as the goal(s) of priority setting in your hospital?) were used.
Overall, 60.7% of respondents indicated their hospitals' priority setting was fair. With respect to the 'accountability for reasonableness' conditions, respondents indicated their hospitals performed best for the relevance (75.0%) condition, followed by appeals/revision (56.6%), publicity (56.0%), and enforcement (39.5%).
For the first time hospital Chief Executive Officers within an entire health system were surveyed about the fairness of priority setting practices in their institutions using the conceptual framework 'accountability for reasonableness'. Although many hospital CEOs felt that their priority setting was fair, ample room for improvement was noted, especially for the enforcement condition.
PMCID: PMC548272  PMID: 15663792
6.  Effect of a Nutrition Supplement and Physical Activity Program on Pneumonia and Walking Capacity in Chilean Older People: A Factorial Cluster Randomized Trial 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(4):e1001023.
Alan Dangour and colleagues report results from the CENEX (Cost-effectiveness Evaluation of a Nutritional supplement and EXercise program for older people) trial, which evaluates a nutritional and exercise program aiming to prevent pneumonia and physical decline in Chilean people.
Ageing is associated with increased risk of poor health and functional decline. Uncertainties about the health-related benefits of nutrition and physical activity for older people have precluded their widespread implementation. We investigated the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of a national nutritional supplementation program and/or a physical activity intervention among older people in Chile.
Methods and Findings
We conducted a cluster randomized factorial trial among low to middle socioeconomic status adults aged 65–67.9 years living in Santiago, Chile. We randomized 28 clusters (health centers) into the study and recruited 2,799 individuals in 2005 (∼100 per cluster). The interventions were a daily micronutrient-rich nutritional supplement, or two 1-hour physical activity classes per week, or both interventions, or neither, for 24 months. The primary outcomes, assessed blind to allocation, were incidence of pneumonia over 24 months, and physical function assessed by walking capacity 24 months after enrolment. Adherence was good for the nutritional supplement (∼75%), and moderate for the physical activity intervention (∼43%). Over 24 months the incidence rate of pneumonia did not differ between intervention and control clusters (32.5 versus 32.6 per 1,000 person years respectively; risk ratio = 1.00; 95% confidence interval 0.61–1.63; p = 0.99). In intention-to-treat analysis, after 24 months there was a significant difference in walking capacity between the intervention and control clusters (mean difference 33.8 meters; 95% confidence interval 13.9–53.8; p = 0.001). The overall cost of the physical activity intervention over 24 months was US$164/participant; equivalent to US$4.84/extra meter walked. The number of falls and fractures was balanced across physical activity intervention arms and no serious adverse events were reported for either intervention.
Chile's nutritional supplementation program for older people is not effective in reducing the incidence of pneumonia. This trial suggests that the provision of locally accessible physical activity classes in a transition economy population can be a cost-effective means of enhancing physical function in later life.
Trial registration
Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN 48153354
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
By 2050, about a quarter of the world's population will be aged 60 years or over, with Asia and Latin America experiencing the most dramatic increases in the proportion of older people. For example, in Chile, which has recently undergone rapid demographic transition, the proportion of the population aged 60 years or over has increased from 8% to 12% over the past 25 years.
Current global policy initiatives that promote healthy ageing include an emphasis on adequate nutrient intakes, as longitudinal studies (conducted in high-income countries) suggest that achieving nutritional sufficiency and maintaining moderate levels of physical activity both decrease risk of mortality by preserving immune function and lean body mass and so reduce the numerous risk factors for disability and chronic disease in later life. Such interventions may also decrease the risk of infection, particularly pneumonia, a common cause of death in older people. However, older people in low- and middle-income countries frequently have diets with insufficient calories (energy) and/or micronutrients.
Why Was This Study Done?
Currently, there is no high-quality evidence to support the benefits of improved nutrition and increased physical activity levels from low-income or transition economies, where the ongoing demographic trends suggest that the needs are greatest. National policies aimed at preserving health and function in older people with interventions such as cash-transfers and provision of “food baskets” are often used in Latin American countries, such as Chile, but are rarely formally evaluated. Therefore, the purpose of this study (the Cost-effectiveness Evaluation of a Nutritional supplement and EXercise program for older people—CENEX) was to evaluate Chile's national nutritional supplementation program and/or physical exercise, to investigate whether this program prevented pneumonia and physical functional decline in older people in Santiago, and also to investigate whether these interventions were cost-effective.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers randomly allocated 28 participating health centers in Santiago, Chile, into one of four arms: (1) nutritional supplementation; (2) nutritional supplementation+physical activity; (3) physical activity alone; (4) control. From May to December 2005, 2,799 eligible adults aged 65–67.9 years and living in low to middle socioeconomic circumstances, who attended each health center, were recruited into the study and received the allocated intervention—daily micronutrient-rich nutritional supplement, or two 1-hour physical activity classes per week, or both interventions or neither—for 24 months. The researchers did not know the allocation arm of each patient and over the course of the study assessed the incidence of pneumonia (viral and bacterial as based on diagnosis at the health center or hospital) and physical function was measured by walking capacity (meters walked in 6 minutes). The researchers used administrative records and interviews with staff and patients to estimate the cost-effectiveness of the interventions.
Participant retention in the study was 84%, although only three-quarters of patients receiving the nutritional intervention and less than half (43%) of patients in the physical activity intervention arm adhered to their respective programs. Over 24 months, the incidence rate of pneumonia did not differ between intervention and control groups (32.5 versus 32.6 per 1,000 person years, respectively), but at the end of the study period, there was a significant difference in walking capacity between the intervention and control clusters (mean difference 33.8 meters). The number of falls and fractures in the study arms were similar. The overall costs over 24 months were US$91.00 and US$163.70 per participant for the nutritional supplement and physical activity interventions, respectively. The cost of the physical activity intervention per extra meter walked at 24 months was US$4.84.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The results of this trial suggest that there is little evidence to support the effectiveness of Chile's national nutritional supplementation program in reducing the incidence of pneumonia for 65.0–67.9 year olds. Therefore, given Chile's high burden of infectious and nutrition-related chronic diseases and the associated high health costs, this program should not be considered as a priority preventive public health intervention. However, the provision of locally available physical activity classes to older people could be of clinical benefit, especially in urban settings such as Santiago, although future challenges include increasing the uptake of, and retention to, such programs.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
The World Health Organization provides information about the state of health in Chile
Wikipedia also provides information about health and health care in Chile (please note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
PMCID: PMC3079648  PMID: 21526229
7.  Priority setting in developing countries health care institutions: the case of a Ugandan hospital 
Because the demand for health services outstrips the available resources, priority setting is one of the most difficult issues faced by health policy makers, particularly those in developing countries. However, there is lack of literature that describes and evaluates priority setting in these contexts. The objective of this paper is to describe priority setting in a teaching hospital in Uganda and evaluate the description against an ethical framework for fair priority setting processes – Accountability for Reasonableness.
A case study in a 1,500 bed national referral hospital receiving 1,320 out patients per day and an average budget of US$ 13.5 million per year. We reviewed documents and carried out 70 in-depth interviews (14 health planners, 40 doctors, and 16 nurses working at the hospital). Interviews were recorded and transcribed. Data analysis employed the modified thematic approach to describe priority setting, and the description was evaluated using the four conditions of Accountability for Reasonableness: relevance, publicity, revisions and enforcement.
Senior managers, guided by the hospital strategic plan make the hospital budget allocation decisions. Frontline practitioners expressed lack of knowledge of the process. Relevance: Priority is given according to a cluster of factors including need, emergencies and patient volume. However, surgical departments and departments whose leaders "make a lot of noise" are also prioritized. Publicity: Decisions, but not reasons, are publicized through general meetings and circulars, but this information does not always reach the frontline practitioners. Publicity to the general public was through ad hoc radio programs and to patients who directly ask. Revisions: There were no formal mechanisms for challenging the reasoning. Enforcement: There were no mechanisms to ensure adherence to the four conditions of a fair process.
Priority setting decisions at this hospital do not satisfy the conditions of fairness. To improve, the hospital should: (i) engage frontline practitioners, (ii) publicize the reasons for decisions both within the hospital and to the general public, and (iii) develop formal mechanisms for challenging the reasoning. In addition, capacity strengthening is required for senior managers who must accept responsibility for ensuring that the above three conditions are met.
PMCID: PMC1609114  PMID: 17026761
8.  Packaging Health Services When Resources Are Limited: The Example of a Cervical Cancer Screening Visit 
PLoS Medicine  2006;3(11):e434.
Increasing evidence supporting the value of screening women for cervical cancer once in their lifetime, coupled with mounting interest in scaling up successful screening demonstration projects, present challenges to public health decision makers seeking to take full advantage of the single-visit opportunity to provide additional services. We present an analytic framework for packaging multiple interventions during a single point of contact, explicitly taking into account a budget and scarce human resources, constraints acknowledged as significant obstacles for provision of health services in poor countries.
Methods and Findings
We developed a binary integer programming (IP) model capable of identifying an optimal package of health services to be provided during a single visit for a particular target population. Inputs to the IP model are derived using state-transition models, which compute lifetime costs and health benefits associated with each intervention. In a simplified example of a single lifetime cervical cancer screening visit, we identified packages of interventions among six diseases that maximized disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) averted subject to budget and human resource constraints in four resource-poor regions. Data were obtained from regional reports and surveys from the World Health Organization, international databases, the published literature, and expert opinion. With only a budget constraint, interventions for depression and iron deficiency anemia were packaged with cervical cancer screening, while the more costly breast cancer and cardiovascular disease interventions were not. Including personnel constraints resulted in shifting of interventions included in the package, not only across diseases but also between low- and high-intensity intervention options within diseases.
The results of our example suggest several key themes: Packaging other interventions during a one-time visit has the potential to increase health gains; the shortage of personnel represents a real-world constraint that can impact the optimal package of services; and the shortage of different types of personnel may influence the contents of the package of services. Our methods provide a general framework to enhance a decision maker's ability to simultaneously consider costs, benefits, and important nonmonetary constraints. We encourage analysts working on real-world problems to shift from considering costs and benefits of interventions for a single disease to exploring what synergies might be achievable by thinking across disease burdens.
Jane Kim and colleagues analyzed the possible ways that multiple health interventions might be packaged together during a single visit, taking into account scarce financial and human resources.
Editors' Summary
Public health decision makers in developed and developing countries are exploring the idea of providing packages of health checks at specific times during a person's lifetime to detect and/or prevent life-threatening diseases such as diabetes, heart problems, and some cancers. Bundling together tests for different diseases has advantages for both health-care systems and patients. It can save time and money for both parties and, by associating health checks with life events such as childbirth, it can take advantage of a valuable opportunity to check on the overall health of individuals who may otherwise rarely visit a doctor. But money and other resources (for example, nurses to measure blood pressure) are always limited, even in wealthy countries, so decision makers have to assess the likely costs and benefits of packages of interventions before putting them into action.
Why Was This Study Done?
Recent evidence suggests that women in developing countries would benefit from a once-in-a-lifetime screen for cervical cancer, a leading cause of cancer death for this population. If such a screening strategy for cervical cancer were introduced, it might provide a good opportunity to offer women other health checks, but it is unclear which interventions should be packaged together. In this study, the researchers have developed an analytic framework to identify an optimal package of health services to offer to women attending a clinic for their lifetime cervical cancer screen. Their model takes into account monetary limitations and possible shortages in trained personnel to do the health checks, and balances these constraints against the likely health benefits for the women.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers developed a “mathematical programming” model to identify an optimal package of health services to be provided during a single visit. They then used their model to estimate the average costs and health outcomes per woman of various combinations of health interventions for 35- to 40-year-old women living in four regions of the world with high adult death rates. The researchers chose breast cancer, cardiovascular disease, depression, anemia caused by iron deficiency, and sexually transmitted diseases as health conditions to be checked in addition to cervical cancer during the single visit. They considered two ways—one cheap in terms of money and people; the other more expensive but often more effective—of checking for or dealing with each potential health problem. When they set a realistic budgetary constraint (based on the annual health budget of the poorest countries and a single health check per woman in the two decades following her reproductive years), the optimal health package generated by the model for all four regions included cervical cancer screening done by testing for human papillomavirus (an effective but complex test), treatment for depression, and screening or treatment for anemia. When a 50% shortage in general (for example, nurses) and specialized (for example, doctors) personnel time was also included, the health benefits of the package were maximized by using a simpler test for cervical cancer and by treating anemia but not depression; this freed up resources in some regions to screen for breast cancer or cardiovascular disease.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The model described by the researchers provides a way to explore the potential advantages of delivering a package of health interventions to individuals in a single visit. Like all mathematical models, its conclusions rely heavily on the data used in its construction. Indeed, the researchers stress that, because they did not have full data on the effectiveness of each intervention and made many other assumptions, their results on their own cannot be used to make policy decisions. Nevertheless, their results clearly show that the packaging of multiple health services during a single visit has great potential to maximize health gains, provided the right interventions are chosen. Most importantly, their analysis shows that in the real world the shortage of personnel, which has been ignored in previous analyses even though it is a major problem in many developing countries, will affect which health conditions and specific interventions should be bundled together to provide the greatest impact on public health.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
The World Health Organization has information on choosing cost-effective health interventions and on human resources for health
The American Cancer Society offers patient information on cervical cancer
The Alliance for Cervical Cancer Prevention includes information about cervical cancer prevention programs in developing countries
PMCID: PMC1635742  PMID: 17105337
9.  What do District Health Planners in Tanzania think about improving priority setting using 'Accountability for Reasonableness'? 
Priority setting in every health system is complex and difficult. In less wealthy countries the dominant approach to priority setting has been Burden of Disease (BOD) and cost-effectiveness analysis (CEA), which is helpful, but insufficient because it focuses on a narrow range of values – need and efficiency – and not the full range of relevant values, including legitimacy and fairness. 'Accountability for reasonableness' is a conceptual framework for legitimate and fair priority setting and is empirically based and ethically justified. It connects priority setting to broader, more fundamental, democratic deliberative processes that have an impact on social justice and equity. Can 'accountability for reasonableness' be helpful for improving priority setting in less wealthy countries?
In 2005, Tanzanian scholars from the Primary Health Care Institute (PHCI) conducted 6 capacity building workshops with senior health staff, district planners and managers, and representatives of the Tanzanian Ministry of Health to discussion improving priority setting in Tanzania using 'accountability for reasonableness'. The purpose of this paper is to describe this initiative and the participants' views about the approach.
The approach to improving priority setting using 'accountability for reasonableness' was viewed by district decision makers with enthusiastic favour because it was the first framework that directly addressed their priority setting concerns. High level Ministry of Health participants were also very supportive of the approach.
Both Tanzanian district and governmental health planners viewed the 'accountability for reasonableness' approach with enthusiastic favour because it was the first framework that directly addressed their concerns.
PMCID: PMC2151948  PMID: 17997824
10.  Deliberation to Enhance Awareness of and Prioritize Socioeconomic Interventions for Health 
Social science & medicine (1982)  2011;72(5):789-797.
Health disparities are, to a large extent, the result of socio-economic factors that cannot be entirely mitigated through the health care system. While an array of social services are thought to be necessary to address the social determinants of health, budget constraints, particularly in difficult economic times, limit the availability of such services. It is therefore necessary to prioritize interventions through some fair process. While it might be appropriate to engage in public deliberation to set priorities, doing so requires that the public accept such a deliberative process and appreciate the social determinants of health. We therefore analyzed the results of a study in which groups deliberated to prioritize socio-economic interventions to examine whether these two requirements can possibly be met and to explore the basis for their priorities. A total of 431 residents of Washington, D.C. with incomes under 200% of the federal poverty threshold participated in 43 groups to engage in a hypothetical exercise to prioritize interventions designed to ameliorate the social determinants of health within the constraints of a limited budget. Findings from pre- and post-exercise questionnaires demonstrate that the priority setting exercise was perceived as a fair deliberative process, and that following the deliberation, participants became more likely to agree that a broad number of determinants contribute to their health. Qualitative analysis of the group discussions indicate that participants prioritized interventions that would provide for basic necessities and improve community conditions, while at the same time addressing more macro-structural factors such as homelessness and unemployment. We conclude that engaging small groups in deliberation about ways to address the social determinants of health can both change participant attitudes and yield informed priorities that might guide public policy aimed at most affordably reducing health disparities.
PMCID: PMC3081785  PMID: 21316832
USA; public participation; interventions; health priorities; health status disparities; public assistance; poverty; resource allocation
11.  Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillators. Prophylactic Use 
Executive Summary
The use of implantable cardiac defibrillators (ICDs) to prevent sudden cardiac death (SCD) in patients resuscitated from cardiac arrest or documented dangerous ventricular arrhythmias (secondary prevention of SCD) is an insured service. In 2003 (before the establishment of the Ontario Health Technology Advisory Committee), the Medical Advisory Secretariat conducted a health technology policy assessment on the prophylactic use (primary prevention of SCD) of ICDs for patients at high risk of SCD. The Medical Advisory Secretariat concluded that ICDs are effective for the primary prevention of SCD. Moreover, it found that a more clearly defined target population at risk for SCD that would be likely to benefit from ICDs is needed, given that the number needed to treat (NNT) from recent studies is 13 to 18, and given that the per-unit cost of ICDs is $32,000, which means that the projected cost to Ontario is $770 million (Cdn).
Accordingly, as part of an annual review and publication of more recent articles, the Medical Advisory Secretariat updated its health technology policy assessment of ICDs.
Clinical Need
Sudden cardiac death is caused by the sudden onset of fatal arrhythmias, or abnormal heart rhythms: ventricular tachycardia (VT), a rhythm abnormality in which the ventricles cause the heart to beat too fast, and ventricular fibrillation (VF), an abnormal, rapid and erratic heart rhythm. About 80% of fatal arrhythmias are associated with ischemic heart disease, which is caused by insufficient blood flow to the heart.
Management of VT and VF with antiarrhythmic drugs is not very effective; for this reason, nonpharmacological treatments have been explored. One such treatment is the ICD.
The Technology
An ICD is a battery-powered device that, once implanted, monitors heart rhythm and can deliver an electric shock to restore normal rhythm when potentially fatal arrhythmias are detected. The use of ICDs to prevent SCD in patients resuscitated from cardiac arrest or documented dangerous ventricular arrhythmias (secondary prevention) is an insured service in Ontario.
Primary prevention of SCD involves identification of and preventive therapy for patients who are at high risk for SCD. Most of the studies in the literature that have examined the prevention of fatal ventricular arrhythmias have focused on patients with ischemic heart disease, in particular, those with heart failure (HF), which has been shown to increase the risk of SCD. The risk of HF is determined by left ventricular ejection fraction (LVEF); most studies have focused on patients with an LVEF under 0.35 or 0.30. While most studies have found ICDs to reduce significantly the risk for SCD in patients with an LVEF less than 0.35, a more recent study (Sudden Cardiac Death in Heart Failure Trial [SCD-HeFT]) reported that patients with HF with nonischemic heart disease could also benefit from this technology. Based on the generalization of the SCD-HeFT study, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid in the United States recently announced that it would allocate $10 billion (US) annually toward the primary prevention of SCD for patients with ischemic and nonischemic heart disease and an LVEF under 0.35.
Review Strategy
The aim of this literature review was to assess the effectiveness, safety, and cost effectiveness of ICDs for the primary prevention of SCD.
The standard search strategy used by the Medical Advisory Secretariat was used. This included a search of all international health technology assessments as well as a search of the medical literature from January 2003–May 2005.
A modification of the GRADE approach (1) was used to make judgments about the quality of evidence and strength of recommendations systematically and explicitly. GRADE provides a framework for structured reflection and can help to ensure that appropriate judgments are made. GRADE takes into account a study’s design, quality, consistency, and directness in judging the quality of evidence for each outcome. The balance between benefits and harms, quality of evidence, applicability, and the certainty of the baseline risks are considered in judgments about the strength of recommendations.
Summary of Findings
Overall, ICDs are effective for the primary prevention of SCD. Three studies – the Multicentre Automatic Defibrillator Implantation Trial I (MADIT I), the Multicentre Automatic Defibrillator Implantation Trial II (MADIT II), and SCD-HeFT – showed there was a statistically significant decrease in total mortality for patients who prophylactically received an ICD compared with those who received conventional therapy (Table 1).
Results of Key Studies on the Use of Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillators for the Primary Prevention of Sudden Cardiac Death – All-Cause Mortality
MADIT I: Multicentre Automatic Defibrillator Implantation Trial I; MADIT II: Multicentre Automatic Defibrillator Implantation Trial II; SCD-HeFT: Sudden Cardiac Death in Heart Failure Trial.
EP indicates electrophysiology; ICD, implantable cardioverter defibrillator; NNT, number needed to treat; NSVT, nonsustained ventricular tachycardia. The NNT will appear higher if follow-up is short. For ICDs, the absolute benefit increases over time for at least a 5-year period; the NNT declines, often substantially, in studies with a longer follow-up. When the NNT are equalized for a similar period as the SCD-HeFT duration (5 years), the NNT for MADIT-I is 2.2; for MADIT-II, it is 6.3.
GRADE Quality of the Evidence
Using the GRADE Working Group criteria, the quality of these 3 trials was examined (Table 2).
Quality refers to the criteria such as the adequacy of allocation concealment, blinding and follow-up.
Consistency refers to the similarity of estimates of effect across studies. If there is important unexplained inconsistency in the results, our confidence in the estimate of effect for that outcome decreases. Differences in the direction of effect, the size of the differences in effect, and the significance of the differences guide the decision about whether important inconsistency exists.
Directness refers to the extent to which the people interventions and outcome measures are similar to those of interest. For example, there may be uncertainty about the directness of the evidence if the people of interest are older, sicker or have more comorbidity than those in the studies.
As stated by the GRADE Working Group, the following definitions were used to grade the quality of the evidence:
High: Further research is very unlikely to change our confidence n the estimate of effect.
Moderate: Further research is likely to have an important impact on our confidence in the estimate of effect and may change the estimate.
Low: Further research is very likely to have an important impact on our confidence in the estimate of effect and is likely to change the estimate.
Very low: Any estimate of effect is very uncertain.
Quality of Evidence – MADIT I, MADIT II, and SCD-HeFT*
MADIT I: Multicentre Automatic Defibrillator Implantation Trial I; MADIT II: Multicentre Automatic Defibrillator Implantation Trial II; SCD-HeFT: Sudden Cardiac Death in Heart Failure Trial.
The 3 trials had 3 different sets of eligibility criteria for implantation of an ICD for primary prevention of SCD. Conclusions
Overall, there is evidence that ICDs are effective for the primary prevention of SCD. Three trials have found a statistically significant decrease in total mortality for patients who prophylactically received an ICD compared with those who received conventional therapy in their respective study populations.
As per the GRADE Working Group, recommendations consider 4 main factors:
The tradeoffs, taking into account the estimated size of the effect for the main outcome, the confidence limits around those estimates, and the relative value placed on the outcome;
The quality of the evidence (Table 2);
Translation of the evidence into practice in a specific setting, taking into consideration important factors that could be expected to modify the size of the expected effects, such as proximity to a hospital or availability of necessary expertise; and
Uncertainty about the baseline risk for the population of interest
The GRADE Working Group also recommends that incremental costs of health care alternatives should be considered explicitly with the expected health benefits and harms. Recommendations rely on judgments about the value of the incremental health benefits in relation to the incremental costs. The last column in Table 3 is the overall trade-off between benefits and harms and incorporates any risk or uncertainty.
For MADIT I, the overall GRADE and strength of the recommendation is “moderate” – the quality of the evidence is “moderate” (uncertainty due to methodological limitations in the study design), and risk/uncertainty in cost and budget impact was mitigated by the use of filters to help target the prevalent population at risk (Table 3).
For MADIT II, the overall GRADE and strength of the recommendation is “very weak” – the quality of the evidence is “weak” (uncertainty due to methodological limitations in the study design), but there is risk or uncertainty regarding the high prevalence, cost, and budget impact. It is not clear why screening for high-risk patients was dropped, given that in MADIT II the absolute reduction in mortality was small (5.6%) compared to MADIT I, which used electrophysiological screening (23%) (Table 3).
For SCD-HeFT, the overall GRADE and strength of the recommendation is “weak” – the study quality is “moderate,” but there is also risk/uncertainty due to a high NNT at 5 years (13 compared to the MADIT II NNT of 6 and MADIT I NNT of 2 at 5 years), high prevalent population (N = 23,700), and a high budget impact ($770 million). A filter (as demonstrated in MADIT 1) is required to help target the prevalent population at risk and mitigate the risk or uncertainty relating to the high NNT, prevalence, and budget impact (Table 3).
The results of the most recent ICD trial (SCD-HeFT) are not generalizable to the prevalent population in Ontario (Table 3). Given that the current funding rate of an ICD is $32,500 (Cdn), the estimated budget impact for Ontario would be as high as $770 million (Cdn). The uncertainty around the cost estimate of treating the prevalent population with LVEF < 0.30 in Ontario, the lack of human resources to implement such a strategy and the high number of patients required to prevent one SCD (NNT = 13) calls for an alternative strategy that allows the appropriate uptake and diffusion of ICDs for primary prevention for patients at maximum risk for SCD within the SCD-HeFT population.
The uptake and diffusion of ICDs for primary prevention of SCD should therefore be based on risk stratification through the use of appropriate screen(s) that would identify patients at highest risk who could derive the most benefit from this technology.
Overall GRADE and Strength of Recommendation for the Use of Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillators for the Primary Prevention of Sudden Cardiac Death
MADIT I: Multicentre Automatic Defibrillator Implantation Trial I; MADIT II: Multicentre Automatic Defibrillator Implantation Trial II; SCD-HeFT: Sudden Cardiac Death in Heart Failure Trial.
NNT indicates number needed to treat. The NNT will appear higher if follow-up is short. For ICDs, the absolute benefit increases over time for at least a 5-year period; the NNT declines, often substantially, in studies with a longer follow-up. When the NNT are equalized for a similar period as the SCD-HeFT duration (5 years), the NNT for MADIT-I is 2.2; for MADIT-II, it is 6.3.
NSVT indicates nonsustained ventricular tachycardia; VT, ventricular tachycardia.
PMCID: PMC3382404  PMID: 23074465
12.  Cost-Effectiveness of Interventions to Promote Physical Activity: A Modelling Study 
PLoS Medicine  2009;6(7):e1000110.
Linda Cobiac and colleagues model the costs and health outcomes associated with interventions to improve physical activity in the population, and identify specific interventions that are likely to be cost-saving.
Physical inactivity is a key risk factor for chronic disease, but a growing number of people are not achieving the recommended levels of physical activity necessary for good health. Australians are no exception; despite Australia's image as a sporting nation, with success at the elite level, the majority of Australians do not get enough physical activity. There are many options for intervention, from individually tailored advice, such as counselling from a general practitioner, to population-wide approaches, such as mass media campaigns, but the most cost-effective mix of interventions is unknown. In this study we evaluate the cost-effectiveness of interventions to promote physical activity.
Methods and Findings
From evidence of intervention efficacy in the physical activity literature and evaluation of the health sector costs of intervention and disease treatment, we model the cost impacts and health outcomes of six physical activity interventions, over the lifetime of the Australian population. We then determine cost-effectiveness of each intervention against current practice for physical activity intervention in Australia and derive the optimal pathway for implementation. Based on current evidence of intervention effectiveness, the intervention programs that encourage use of pedometers (Dominant) and mass media-based community campaigns (Dominant) are the most cost-effective strategies to implement and are very likely to be cost-saving. The internet-based intervention program (AUS$3,000/DALY), the GP physical activity prescription program (AUS$12,000/DALY), and the program to encourage more active transport (AUS$20,000/DALY), although less likely to be cost-saving, have a high probability of being under a AUS$50,000 per DALY threshold. GP referral to an exercise physiologist (AUS$79,000/DALY) is the least cost-effective option if high time and travel costs for patients in screening and consulting an exercise physiologist are considered.
Intervention to promote physical activity is recommended as a public health measure. Despite substantial variability in the quantity and quality of evidence on intervention effectiveness, and uncertainty about the long-term sustainability of behavioural changes, it is highly likely that as a package, all six interventions could lead to substantial improvement in population health at a cost saving to the health sector.
Please see later in the article for Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
The human body needs regular physical activity throughout life to stay healthy. Physical activity—any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that uses energy—helps to maintain a healthy body weight and to prevent or delay heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, colon cancer, and breast cancer. In addition, physically active people feel better and live longer than physically inactive people. For an adult, 30 minutes of moderate physical activity—walking briskly, gardening, swimming, or cycling—at least five times a week is sufficient to promote and maintain health. But at least 60% of the world's population does not do even this modest amount of physical activity. The daily lives of people in both developed and developing countries are becoming increasingly sedentary. People are sitting at desks all day instead of doing manual labor; they are driving to work in cars instead of walking or cycling; and they are participating less in physical activities during their leisure time.
Why Was This Study Done?
In many countries, the chronic diseases that are associated with physical inactivity are now a major public-health problem; globally, physical inactivity causes 1.9 million deaths per year. Clearly, something has to be done about this situation. Luckily, there is no shortage of interventions designed to promote physical activity, ranging from individual counseling from general practitioners to mass-media campaigns. But which intervention or package of interventions will produce the optimal population health benefits relative to cost? Although some studies have examined the cost-effectiveness of individual interventions, different settings for analysis and use of different methods and assumptions make it difficult to compare results and identify which intervention approaches should be give priority by policy makers. Furthermore, little is known about the cost-effectiveness of packages of interventions. In this study, the researchers investigate the cost-effectiveness in Australia (where physical inactivity contributes to 10% of deaths) of a package of interventions designed to promote physical activity in adults using a standardized approach (ACE-Prevention) to the assessment of the cost-effectiveness of health-care interventions.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers selected six interventions for their study: general practitioner “prescription” of physical activity; general practitioner referral to an exercise physiologist; a mass-media campaign to promote physical activity; the TravelSmart car use reduction program; a campaign to encourage the use of pedometers to increase physical activity; and an internet-based program. Using published data on the effects of physical activity on the amount of illness and death caused by breast and colon cancer, heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes and on the effectiveness of each intervention, the researchers calculated the health outcomes of each intervention in disability-adjusted life years (DALY; a year of healthy life lost because of premature death or disability) averted over the lifetime of the Australian population. They also calculated the costs associated with each intervention offset by the costs associated with the five conditions listed above. These analyses showed that the pedometer program and the mass-media campaign were likely to be the most cost-effective interventions. These interventions were also most likely to be cost-saving. Referral to an exercise physiologist was the least cost-effective intervention. The other three interventions, though unlikely to be cost-saving, were likely to be cost-effective. Finally, a package of all six interventions would be cost-effective and would avert 61,000 DALYs, a third of what could be achieved if every Australian did 30 minutes of physical activity five times a week.
What Do These Findings Mean?
As in all modeling studies, these findings depend on the quality of the data and on the assumptions included by the researchers in their calculations. Unfortunately, there was substantial variability in the quantity and quality of evidence on the effectiveness of each intervention and uncertainty about the long-term effects of each intervention. Nevertheless, the findings presented in this study suggest that the assessment of the cost-effectiveness of a combination of interventions designed to promote physical activity might provide policy makers with some guidance about the best way to reduce the burden of disease caused by physical inactivity. More specifically, for Australia, these findings suggest that the package of the six interventions considered here is likely to provide a cost-effective way to substantially improve the health of the nation.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
The World Health Organization provides information about physical activity and health (in several languages); it also provides an explanation of DALYs
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information on physical activity for different age groups and for health professionals
The UK National Health Service information source Choices also explains the benefits of regular physical activity
MedlinePlus has links to other resources about exercise and physical fitness (in English and Spanish)
The University of Queensland Web site has more information on ACE-Prevention (Assessing Cost-Effectiveness Prevention)
PMCID: PMC2700960  PMID: 19597537
13.  Identifying priority medicines policy issues for New Zealand: a general inductive study 
BMJ Open  2014;4(5):e004415.
To identify priority medicines policy issues for New Zealand.
Stakeholders from a broad range of healthcare and policy institutions including primary, secondary and tertiary care.
Exploratory, semistructured interviews were conducted with 20 stakeholders throughout New Zealand.
Primary and secondary outcome measures
The interviews were digitally recorded, transcribed and coded into INVIVO 10, then compared and grouped for similarity of theme. Perceptions, experiences and opinions regarding New Zealand's medicines policy issues were recorded.
A large proportion of stakeholders appeared to be unaware of New Zealand's (NZ) medicines policy. In general, the policy was considered to offer consistency to guide decision-making. In the context of Pharmaceutical Management Agency's (PHARMAC's) fixed budget for procuring and subsidising medicines, there was reasonable satisfaction with the range of medicines available—rare disorder medicines being the clear exception. Concerns raised were by whom and how decisions are made and whether desired health outcomes are being measured. Other concerns included inconsistencies in evidence and across health technologies. Despite attempts to improve the situation, lower socioeconomic groups (including rural residents) Māori and Pacific ethnicities and people with rare disorders face challenges with regards to accessing medicines. Other barriers include, convenience to and affordability of prescribers and the increase of prescription fees from NZ$3 to NZ$5. Concerns related to the PHARMAC of New Zealand included: a constraining budget; non-transparency of in-house analysis; lack of consistency in recommendations between the Pharmacology and Therapeutics Advisory Committee. Constraints and inefficiencies also exist in the submission process to access high-cost medicines.
The results suggest reasonable satisfaction with the availability of subsidised medicines. However, some of the major challenges include access to medicines in vulnerable groups, increasing costs and demand for new medicines, access to prescribers, budgetary constraints, cultural and health literacy, patient affordability and evidence requirement for gaining subsidy for medicines.
PMCID: PMC4039830  PMID: 24871535
14.  Integrating mental health into primary health care in Zambia: a care provider's perspective 
Despite the 1991 reforms of the health system in Zambia, mental health is still given low priority. This is evident from the fragmented manner in which mental health services are provided in the country and the limited budget allocations, with mental health services receiving 0.4% of the total health budget. Most of the mental health services provided are curative in nature and based in tertiary health institutions. At primary health care level, there is either absence of, or fragmented health services.
The aim of this paper was to explore health providers' views about mental health integration into primary health care.
A mixed methods, structured survey was conducted of 111 health service providers in primary health care centres, drawn from one urban setting (Lusaka) and one rural setting (Mumbwa).
There is strong support for integrating mental health into primary health care from care providers, as a way of facilitating early detection and intervention for mental health problems. Participants believed that this would contribute to the reduction of stigma and the promotion of human rights for people with mental health problems. However, health providers felt they require basic training in order to enhance their knowledge and skills in providing health care to people with mental health problems.
It is recommended that health care providers should be provided with basic training in mental health in order to enhance their knowledge and skills to enable them provide mental health care to patients seeking help at primary health care level.
Integrating mental health services into primary health care is critical to improving and promoting the mental health of the population in Zambia.
PMCID: PMC2919445  PMID: 20653981
15.  Why integrated care? Conclusions from an international expert survey 
Exploring the indicators most crucial for actors in health and social care services and identifying those which lead up to the initiation and implementation of integrated care. By analysing the reasons why integrated care is chosen and initiated, the underlying mechanisms and decision-making processes of integrated care are highlighted.
Even though integrated care projects and programmes are implemented in very different settings and health systems one can find the same main actors everywhere. They share similar goals and principles which are universal and not unique to one specific country or system. Hence, it is likely that the type of actor, i.e. health insurance, is more influential on the decision-making process than the health system and surrounding setting. In other words, it was stipulated that a health insurer in the Netherlands will have similar priorities for integrated care as a health insurer in Singapore and hence will choose similar integrated care approaches.
On the other hand, system administrators can strongly incentivise or discourage innovation and cooperation within the health and social care dominions, i.e. by passing laws or (re)organising the financing system. It is suggested that integrated care is implemented more widely in countries where stakeholders receive targeted incentives and fragmentation within the system is less pronounced.
The hypotheses were tested using an international expert questionnaire, contacting integrated care managers and decision-makers in Europe, North America and Australasia. The results were quantitatively analyzed using SPSS.
Results and conclusions
Integrated care is stipulated to offer solutions to the demographic changes, the concurring increase of chronic disease and the pressures on restricted resources experienced in the modern health systems of today. The survey conducted suggested a more diversified picture regarding the expectations and priorities set into the concept by health care decision-makers. While all of these challenges are perceived by them, their undisputed priority is on the introduction and enhancement of management structures on all levels. They do not value financial restrictions as severely as may have been anticipated and they revealed that neither active patient participation nor the introduction of outcome measurement are high priorities when introducing integrated care. The findings also suggest that the same stakeholders follow similar priorities disregarding the different health systems they act in.
In conclusion, two levels of priority setting have been identified as highly important for integrated care initiation: on the policy level, prioritisation of integrated care along with specific promotion measures influence decision-making; on the organisational level, the need for clear structures and better management tools both in the organisation itself and in the management of the targeted patient population, reflect the highest priorities for the decision-making process.
The response rate was 18% with the majority of responses coming from Germany, The Netherlands, UK and the USA.
Integrated care has come a long way from the first projects implemented by health insurance organisations to a colourful array of projects and permanent programmes, spanning from local to national level and from very targeted to very broad inclusion criteria, initiated, owned and financed by a mix of all stakeholders and agents in the system. Hence, integrated care developed into a ‘Jack-of-all-trades’ approach, stimulating change and confusion at the same time. Still, in most countries, it has not entered mainstream health care organisation and management and continues to struggle in proving its value. Asking why integrated care is initiated and implemented in the first place helps understand the priorities and objectives of decision-makers in health care, and hence can lead to a more targeted development and application of integrated care models.
PMCID: PMC3184810
decision-making; priority setting in integrated care; stakeholder-specific differences
16.  Effectiveness and Cost Effectiveness of Expanding Harm Reduction and Antiretroviral Therapy in a Mixed HIV Epidemic: A Modeling Analysis for Ukraine 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(3):e1000423.
A cost-effectiveness study by Sabina Alistar and colleagues evaluates the effectiveness and cost effectiveness of different levels of investment in methadone, ART, or both, in the mixed HIV epidemic in Ukraine.
Injection drug use (IDU) and heterosexual virus transmission both contribute to the growing mixed HIV epidemics in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. In Ukraine—chosen in this study as a representative country—IDU-related risk behaviors cause half of new infections, but few injection drug users (IDUs) receive methadone substitution therapy. Only 10% of eligible individuals receive antiretroviral therapy (ART). The appropriate resource allocation between these programs has not been studied. We estimated the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of strategies for expanding methadone substitution therapy programs and ART in mixed HIV epidemics, using Ukraine as a case study.
Methods and Findings
We developed a dynamic compartmental model of the HIV epidemic in a population of non-IDUs, IDUs using opiates, and IDUs on methadone substitution therapy, stratified by HIV status, and populated it with data from the Ukraine. We considered interventions expanding methadone substitution therapy, increasing access to ART, or both. We measured health care costs, quality-adjusted life years (QALYs), HIV prevalence, infections averted, and incremental cost-effectiveness. Without incremental interventions, HIV prevalence reached 67.2% (IDUs) and 0.88% (non-IDUs) after 20 years. Offering methadone substitution therapy to 25% of IDUs reduced prevalence most effectively (to 53.1% IDUs, 0.80% non-IDUs), and was most cost-effective, averting 4,700 infections and adding 76,000 QALYs compared with no intervention at US$530/QALY gained. Expanding both ART (80% coverage of those eligible for ART according to WHO criteria) and methadone substitution therapy (25% coverage) was the next most cost-effective strategy, adding 105,000 QALYs at US$1,120/QALY gained versus the methadone substitution therapy-only strategy and averting 8,300 infections versus no intervention. Expanding only ART (80% coverage) added 38,000 QALYs at US$2,240/QALY gained versus the methadone substitution therapy-only strategy, and averted 4,080 infections versus no intervention. Offering ART to 80% of non-IDUs eligible for treatment by WHO criteria, but only 10% of IDUs, averted only 1,800 infections versus no intervention and was not cost effective.
Methadone substitution therapy is a highly cost-effective option for the growing mixed HIV epidemic in Ukraine. A strategy that expands both methadone substitution therapy and ART to high levels is the most effective intervention, and is very cost effective by WHO criteria. When expanding ART, access to methadone substitution therapy provides additional benefit in infections averted. Our findings are potentially relevant to other settings with mixed HIV epidemics.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
HIV epidemics in Eastern Europe and Central Asia are mainly driven by increasing use of injection drugs combined with heterosexual transmission. In the Ukraine, in 2007, there were 82,000 officially registered people living with HIV—three times the number registered in 1999—and an estimated 395,000 HIV infected adults. The epidemic in Ukraine, like other countries in the region, is concentrated in at-risk populations, particularly people who inject drugs: in 2007, an estimated 390,000 Ukrainians were injecting drugs, an increase in drug use over the previous decade, not only in Ukraine, but in other former USSR states, owing to the easy availability of precursors for injection drugs in a climate of economic collapse.
The common practices of people who inject drugs in Ukraine and in other countries in the region, such as social injecting, syringe sharing, and using common containers, increase the risk of transmitting HIV. Public health interventions such as needle exchange can limit these risk factors and have been gradually implemented in these countries. In 2007, Ukraine approved the use of methadone substitution therapy and the current target is for 11,000 people who inject drugs to be enrolled in substitution therapy by 2011. Furthermore, since treatment for HIV-infected individuals is also necessary, national HIV control plans included a target of 90% antiretroviral therapy (ART) coverage by 2010 but in 2007 less than 10% of the 91,000 eligible people received treatment. Although the number of people who inject drugs and who receive ART is unknown, physicians are often reluctant to treat people who inject drugs using ART owing to alleged poor compliance.
Why Was This Study Done?
As resources for HIV interventions in the region are limited, it is important to investigate the appropriate balance between investments in methadone substitution therapy and ART in order to maximize benefits to public health. Several studies have analyzed the cost effectiveness of methadone substitution therapy in similar settings but have not considered tradeoffs between ART and methadone substitution therapy. Therefore, to provide insights into the appropriate public health investment in methadone substitution therapy and ART in Ukraine, the researchers evaluated the public health effectiveness and cost effectiveness of different strategies for scaling up methadone substitution therapy and/or expanding ART.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers developed a model to accommodate different population groups: people who inject drugs on substitution therapy with methadone; people who inject opiates and do not take any substitution therapy; and people who do not inject any drugs, hence do not need substitution therapy. The researchers inputted Ukraine country-level data into this model and used current HIV trends in Ukraine to make rational assumptions on possible future trends and scenarios. They considered scenarios expanding methadone substitution therapy availability, increasing acces to ART, or both. Then, the researchers measured health care costs, quality-adjusted life years (QALYs), HIV prevalence, infections averted, and incremental cost effectiveness for the different scenarios. They found that after 20 years, HIV prevalence reached 67.2% in people who inject drugs and 0.88% in people who do not inject drugs without further interventions. Offering methadone substitution therapy to 25% of people who inject drugs was the most effective strategy in reducing prevalence of HIV and was also the most cost effective, averting 4,700 infections and adding 75,700 QALYs versus the status quo at $530/QALY gained. Expanding both methadone substitution therapy and ART was also a highly cost effective option, adding 105,000 QALYs at US$1,120/QALY gained versus the methadone substitution therapy-only strategy. Offering ART to 80% of eligible people who did not inject drugs, and 10% of people who injected drugs averted only 1,800 infections, and added 76,400 QALYs at $1,330/QALY gained.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The results show that methadone substitution-focused therapeutic scenarios are the most cost effective, and that benefits increase with the scale of the project, even among people who do not inject drugs. This makes a methadone substitution strategy a highly cost-effective option for addressing the growing HIV epidemic in Ukraine. Therefore, if it is not feasible to invest in large-scale methadone substitution programs for any reason, political circumstances for example, providing as much methadone substitution as is acceptable is still desirable. While substitution therapy appears to avert the most HIV infections, expanded ART provides the largest total increase in QALYs. Thus, methadone substitution therapy and ART offer complementary benefits. Because the HIV epidemic in Ukraine is representative of the HIV epidemic in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, the cost-effective strategies that the researchers have identified may help inform all decision makers faced with a mixed HIV epidemic.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
Alliance provides information on its work supporting community action on AIDS in Ukraine
USAID provides an HIV/AIDS Health Profile for Ukraine
UNICEF provides information about its activities to help Ukraine fight rising HIV/AIDS infection rates
International Harm Reduction Association provides information about the status of harm reduction interventions such as methadone substitution therapy around the world
PMCID: PMC3046988  PMID: 21390264
17.  A population-based model for priority setting across the care continuum and across modalities 
The Health-sector Wide (HsW) priority setting model is designed to shift the focus of priority setting away from 'program budgets' – that are typically defined by modality or disease-stage – and towards well-defined target populations with a particular disease/health problem.
The key features of the HsW model are i) a disease/health problem framework, ii) a sequential approach to covering the entire health sector, iii) comprehensiveness of scope in identifying intervention options and iv) the use of objective evidence. The HsW model redefines the unit of analysis over which priorities are set to include all mutually exclusive and complementary interventions for the prevention and treatment of each disease/health problem under consideration. The HsW model is therefore incompatible with the fragmented approach to priority setting across multiple program budgets that currently characterises allocation in many health systems. The HsW model employs standard cost-utility analyses and decision-rules with the aim of maximising QALYs contingent upon the global budget constraint for the set of diseases/health problems under consideration. It is recognised that the objective function may include non-health arguments that would imply a departure from simple QALY maximisation and that political constraints frequently limit degrees of freedom. In addressing these broader considerations, the HsW model can be modified to maximise value-weighted QALYs contingent upon the global budget constraint and any political constraints bearing upon allocation decisions.
The HsW model has been applied in several contexts, recently to osteoarthritis, that has demonstrated both its practical application and its capacity to derive clear evidenced-based policy recommendations.
Comparisons with other approaches to priority setting, such as Programme Budgeting and Marginal Analysis (PBMA) and modality-based cost-effectiveness comparisons, as typified by Australia's Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee process for the listing of pharmaceuticals for government funding, demonstrate the value added by the HsW model notably in its greater likelihood of contributing to allocative efficiency.
PMCID: PMC1481504  PMID: 16566841
18.  Natural History, Microbes and Sequences: Shouldn't We Look Back Again to Organisms? 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(8):e21334.
The discussion on the existence of prokaryotic species is reviewed. The demonstration that several different mechanisms of genetic exchange and recombination exist has led some to a radical rejection of the possibility of bacterial species and, in general, the applicability of traditional classification categories to the prokaryotic domains. However, in spite of intense gene traffic, prokaryotic groups are not continuously variable but form discrete clusters of phenotypically coherent, well-defined, diagnosable groups of individual organisms. Molecularization of life sciences has led to biased approaches to the issue of the origins of biodiversity, which has resulted in the increasingly extended tendency to emphasize genes and sequences and not give proper attention to organismal biology. As argued here, molecular and organismal approaches that should be seen as complementary and not opposed views of biology.
PMCID: PMC3156702  PMID: 21857904
19.  Personal needs versus national needs: public attitudes regarding health care priorities at the personal and national levels 
Many stakeholders have little or no confidence in the ability of the public to express their opinions on health policy issues. The claim often arises that lay people prioritize according to their own personal experiences and may lack the broad perspective necessary to understand the needs of the population at large. In order to test this claim empirically, this study compares the public’s priorities regarding personal insurance to their priorities regarding allocation of national health resources. Thus, the study should shed light on the extent to which the public’s priorities at the national level are a reflection of their priorities at the personal level.
A telephone survey was conducted with a representative sample of the Israeli adult population aged 18 and over (n = 1,225). The public’s priorities were assessed by asking interviewees to assume that they were the Minister of Health and from this point of view allocate an additional budget among various health areas. Their priorities at the personal level were assessed by asking interviewees to choose preferred items for inclusion in their personal supplementary health insurance.
Over half of the respondents (54%) expressed different personal and national priorities. In multivariable logistic analysis, “population group” was the only variable found to be statistically significant; Jews were 1.8 times more likely than Arabs to give a similar response to both questions. Income level was of borderline significance.
At least half of the population was able to differentiate between their personal needs and national policy needs. We do not advocate a decision-making process based on polls or referendums. However, we believe that people should be allowed to express their priorities regarding national policy issues, and that decision-makers should consider these as one of the factors used to determine policy decisions.
PMCID: PMC4432952  PMID: 25984294
Health policy; Health priorities; National health insurance; Health insurance; National survey; Public opinion
20.  The Cost and Impact of Scaling Up Pre-exposure Prophylaxis for HIV Prevention: A Systematic Review of Cost-Effectiveness Modelling Studies 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(3):e1001401.
Gabriela Gomez and colleagues systematically review cost-effectiveness modeling studies of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) for preventing HIV transmission and identify the main considerations to address when considering the introduction of PrEP to HIV prevention programs.
Cost-effectiveness studies inform resource allocation, strategy, and policy development. However, due to their complexity, dependence on assumptions made, and inherent uncertainty, synthesising, and generalising the results can be difficult. We assess cost-effectiveness models evaluating expected health gains and costs of HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) interventions.
Methods and Findings
We conducted a systematic review comparing epidemiological and economic assumptions of cost-effectiveness studies using various modelling approaches. The following databases were searched (until January 2013): PubMed/Medline, ISI Web of Knowledge, Centre for Reviews and Dissemination databases, EconLIT, and region-specific databases. We included modelling studies reporting both cost and expected impact of a PrEP roll-out. We explored five issues: prioritisation strategies, adherence, behaviour change, toxicity, and resistance. Of 961 studies retrieved, 13 were included. Studies modelled populations (heterosexual couples, men who have sex with men, people who inject drugs) in generalised and concentrated epidemics from Southern Africa (including South Africa), Ukraine, USA, and Peru. PrEP was found to have the potential to be a cost-effective addition to HIV prevention programmes in specific settings. The extent of the impact of PrEP depended upon assumptions made concerning cost, epidemic context, programme coverage, prioritisation strategies, and individual-level adherence. Delivery of PrEP to key populations at highest risk of HIV exposure appears the most cost-effective strategy. Limitations of this review include the partial geographical coverage, our inability to perform a meta-analysis, and the paucity of information available exploring trade-offs between early treatment and PrEP.
Our review identifies the main considerations to address in assessing cost-effectiveness analyses of a PrEP intervention—cost, epidemic context, individual adherence level, PrEP programme coverage, and prioritisation strategy. Cost-effectiveness studies indicating where resources can be applied for greatest impact are essential to guide resource allocation decisions; however, the results of such analyses must be considered within the context of the underlying assumptions made.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Every year approximately 2.5 million people are infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Behavioral strategies like condom use and reduction of sexual partners have been the hallmarks of HIV prevention efforts. However, biological prevention measures have also recently been shown to be effective. These include male circumcision, treatment as prevention (treating HIV-infected people with antiretroviral drugs to reduce transmission), and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), where people not infected with HIV take antiretroviral drugs to reduce the probability of transmission. Strategies such as PrEP may be viable prevention measure for couples in long-term relationships where one partner is HIV-positive and the other is HIV-negative (HIV serodiscordant couples) or groups at higher risk of HIV infection, such as men who have sex with men, and injection drug users.
Why Was This Study Done?
The findings from recent clinical trials that demonstrate PrEP can reduce HIV transmission have led to important policy discussions and in the US, Southern Africa, and the UK new clinical guidelines have been developed on the use of PrEP for the prevention of HIV infection. For those countries that are considering whether to introduce PrEP into HIV prevention programs, national policy and decision makers need to determine potential costs and health outcomes. Cost-effectiveness models—mathematical models that simulate cost and health effects of different interventions—can help inform such decisions. However, the cost-effectiveness estimates that could provide guidance for PrEP programs are dependent on, and limited by, the assumptions included in the models, which can make their findings difficult to generalize. A systematic comparison of published cost-effectiveness models of HIV PrEP interventions would be useful for policy makers who are considering introducing PrEP intervention programs.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers performed a systematic review to identify published cost-effectiveness models that evaluated the health gains and costs of HIV PrEP interventions. Systematic reviews attempt to identify, appraise, and synthesize all the empirical evidence that meets pre-specified eligibility criteria to answer a given research question by using explicit methods aimed at minimizing bias. By searching databases the authors identified 13 published studies that evaluated the impact of PrEP in different populations (heterosexual couples, men who have sex with men, and injection drug users) in different geographic settings, which included Southern Africa, Ukraine, US, and Peru.
The authors identified seven studies that assessed the introduction of PrEP into generalized HIV epidemics in Southern Africa. These studies suggest that PrEP may be a cost effective intervention to prevent heterosexual transmission. However, the authors note that funding PrEP while other cost-effective HIV prevention methods are underfunded in this setting may have high opportunity costs. The authors identified five studies where PrEP was introduced for concentrated epidemics among men who have sex with men (four studies in the US and one in Peru). These studies suggest that PrEP may have a substantial impact on the HIV epidemic but may not be affordable at current drug prices. The authors also identified a single study that modeled the introduction of PrEP for people who inject drugs in the Ukraine, which found PrEP not to be cost effective.
In all settings the price of antiretroviral drugs was found to be a limiting factor in terms of affordability of PrEP programs. Behavioral changes and adherence to PrEP were estimated to have potentially significant impacts on program effectiveness but the emergence of drug resistance or PrEP-related toxicity did not significantly affect cost-effectiveness estimates. Several PrEP prioritization strategies were explored in included studies and delivering PrEP to populations at highest risk of HIV exposure was shown to improve cost-effectiveness estimates. However, the extra costs of identifying and engaging with high-risk populations were not taken into consideration. The authors note that the geographic coverage of identified studies was limited and that the findings are very dependent on the setting which limits generalizability.
What Do these Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that PrEP could be a cost-effective tool to reduce new HIV infections in some settings. However, the cost-effectiveness of PrEP is dependent upon cost, the epidemic context, program coverage and prioritization strategies, participants' adherence to the drug regimen, and PrEP efficacy estimates. These findings will aid decision makers quantify and compare the reductions in HIV incidence that could be achieved by implementing a PrEP program.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
The US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has information on HIV/AIDS
aidsmap provides basic information about HIV/AIDS, summaries of recent research findings on HIV care and treatment, and has a section on PrEP
Information is available from Avert, an international AIDS charity, on many aspects of HIV/AIDS, including HIV prevention
AVAC Global Advocacy for HIV Prevention provides information on HIV prevention, including PrEP
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also has information on PrEP
The World Health Organization has a page on its WHO-CHOICE criteria for cost-effectiveness
PMCID: PMC3595225  PMID: 23554579
21.  Evaluating Drug Prices, Availability, Affordability, and Price Components: Implications for Access to Drugs in Malaysia 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(3):e82.
Malaysia's stable health care system is facing challenges with increasing medicine costs. To investigate these issues a survey was carried out to evaluate medicine prices, availability, affordability, and the structure of price components.
Methods and Findings
The methodology developed by the World Health Organization (WHO) and Health Action International (HAI) was used. Price and availability data for 48 medicines was collected from 20 public sector facilities, 32 private sector retail pharmacies and 20 dispensing doctors in four geographical regions of West Malaysia. Medicine prices were compared with international reference prices (IRPs) to obtain a median price ratio. The daily wage of the lowest paid unskilled government worker was used to gauge the affordability of medicines. Price component data were collected throughout the supply chain, and markups, taxes, and other distribution costs were identified. In private pharmacies, innovator brand (IB) prices were 16 times higher than the IRPs, while generics were 6.6 times higher. In dispensing doctor clinics, the figures were 15 times higher for innovator brands and 7.5 for generics. Dispensing doctors applied high markups of 50%–76% for IBs, and up to 316% for generics. Retail pharmacy markups were also high—25%–38% and 100%–140% for IBs and generics, respectively. In the public sector, where medicines are free, availability was low even for medicines on the National Essential Drugs List. For a month's treatment for peptic ulcer disease and hypertension people have to pay about a week's wages in the private sector.
The free market by definition does not control medicine prices, necessitating price monitoring and control mechanisms. Markups for generic products are greater than for IBs. Reducing the base price without controlling markups may increase profits for retailers and dispensing doctors without reducing the price paid by end users. To increase access and affordability, promotion of generic medicines and improved availability of medicines in the public sector are required.
Drug price and availability data were collected from West Malaysian public sector facilities, private sector retail pharmacies, and dispensing doctors. Mark-ups were higher on generic drugs than on innovator brands.
Editors' Summary
The World Health Organization has said that one-third of the people of the world cannot access the medicines they need. An important reason for this problem is that prices are often too high for people or government-funded health systems to afford. In developing countries, most people who need medicines have to pay for them out of their own pockets. Where the cost of drugs is covered by health systems, spending on medicines is a major part of the total healthcare budget. Governments use a variety of approaches to try to control the cost of drugs and make sure that essential medicines are affordable and not overpriced. According to the theory of “free market economics,” the costs of goods and services are determined by interactions between buyers and sellers and not by government intervention. However, free market economics does not work well at containing the costs of medicines, particularly new medicines, because new medicines are protected by patent law, which legally prevents others from making, using, or selling the medicine for a particular period of time. Therefore, without government intervention, there is nothing to help to push down prices.
Why Was This Study Done?
Malaysia is a middle-income country with a relatively effective public health system, but it is facing a rapid rise in drug costs. In Malaysia, medicine prices are determined by free-market economics, without any control by government. Government hospitals are expected to provide drugs free, but a substantial proportion of medicines are paid for by patients who buy them directly from private pharmacies or prescribing doctors. There is evidence that Malaysian patients have difficulties accessing the drugs they need and that cost is an important factor. Therefore, the researchers who wrote this paper wanted to examine the cost of different medicines in Malaysia, and their availability and affordability from different sources.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
In this research project, 48 drugs were studied, of which 28 were part of a “core list” identified by the World Health Organization as “essential drugs” on the basis of the global burden of disease. The remaining 20 reflected health care needs in Malaysia itself. The costs of each medicine were collected from government hospitals, private pharmacies, and dispensing doctors in four different regions of Malaysia. Data were collected for the “innovator brand” (made by the original patent holder) and for “generic” brands (an equivalent drug to the innovator brand, produced by a different company once the innovator brand no longer has an exclusive patent). The medicine prices were compared against international reference prices (IRP), which are the average prices offered by not-for-profit drug companies to developing countries. Finally, the researchers also compared the cost of the drugs with daily wages, in order to work out their “affordability.”
The researchers found that, irrespective of the source of medicines, prices were on average very much higher than the international reference price, ranging from 2.4 times the IRP for innovator brands accessed through public hospitals, to 16 times the IRP for innovator brands accessed through private pharmacies. The availability of medicines was also very poor, with only 25% of generic medicines available on average through the public sector. The affordability of many of the medicines studied was again very poor. For example, one month's supply of ranitidine (a drug for stomach ulcers) was equivalent to around three days' wages for a low-paid government worker, and one month's supply of fluoxetine (an antidepressant) would cost around 26 days' wages.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These results show that essential drugs are very expensive in Malaysia and are not universally available. Many people would not be able to pay for essential medicines. The cost of medicines in Malaysia seems to be much higher than in areas of India and Sri Lanka, although the researchers did not attempt to collect data in order to carry out an international comparison. It is possible that the high cost and low availability in Malaysia are the result of a lack of government regulation. Overall, the findings suggest that the government should set up mechanisms to prevent drug manufacturers from increasing prices too much and thus ensure greater access to essential medicines.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
Read a related PLoS Medicine Perspective article by Suzanne Hill
Information is available from the World Health Organization on Improving Access to Medicines
Information on medicine prices is available from Health Action International
Wikipedia has an entry on Patent (a type of intellectual property that is normally used to prevent other companies from selling a newly invented medicine). (Wikipedia is an internet encyclopedia anyone can edit.)
The Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative is an international collaboration between public organizations that aims to develop drugs for people suffering from neglected diseases
PMCID: PMC1831730  PMID: 17388660
22.  The Relevance of Personal Characteristics in Allocating Health Care Resources—Controversial Preferences of Laypersons with Different Educational Backgrounds 
In all industrial countries publicly funded health care systems are confronted with budget constraints. Therefore, priority setting in resource allocation seems inevitable. This paper examines whether personal characteristics could be taken into consideration when allocating health services in Germany, and whether attitudes towards prioritizing health care vary among individuals with different levels of education. Using a conjoint analysis approach, hypothetical patients described in terms of ‘lifestyle’, ‘age’, ‘severity of illness’, ‘type of illness’, ‘improvement in health’, and ‘treatment costs’ were constructed, and the importance weights for these personal characteristics were elicited from 120 members of the general public. Participants were selected according to a sampling guide including educational background, age, chronic illness and gender. Results are reported for groups with different levels of education (low, middle, high) only. The findings show that the patients’ age is the most important criterion for the allocation of health care resources, followed by ‘severity of illness’ and ‘improvement in health’. Preferences vary among participants with different educational backgrounds, which refer to different attitudes towards distributive justice and might represent different socialization experiences.
PMCID: PMC3315072  PMID: 22470289
prioritizing; health behavior; conjoint analysis; distributive justice; distributive preferences; public attitudes; Germany; socialization theory
23.  Health care rationing: the public's debate. 
BMJ : British Medical Journal  1996;312(7032):670-674.
OBJECTIVE--To elicit the views of a large nationally representative sample of adults on priorities for health services. DESIGN--An interview survey based on a random sample of people aged 16 and over in Great Britain taken by the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys. SUBJECTS--The response rate to the survey was 75%, and the total number of adults interviewed was 2005. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES--A priority ranking exercise of health services supplemented with attitude questions about priorities, who should set priorities, and budget allocation. RESULTS--The results of the main priority ranking exercise of 12 health services showed that the highest priority (rank 1) was accorded to "treatments for children with life threatening illness," the next highest priority (rank 2) was accorded to "special care and pain relief for people who are dying." The lowest priorities (11 and 12) were given to "treatment for infertility" and "treatment for people aged 75 and over with life threatening illness." Most respondents thought that surveys like this one should be used in the planning of health services. CONCLUSIONS--The public prioritise treatments specifically for younger rather than older people. There is some public support for people with self inflicted conditions (for example, through tobacco smoking) receiving lower priority for care, which raises ethical issues.
PMCID: PMC2350498  PMID: 8597733
24.  The cost-effectiveness of Antiretroviral Treatment in Khayelitsha, South Africa – a primary data analysis 
Given the size of the HIV epidemic in South Africa and other developing countries, scaling up antiretroviral treatment (ART) represents one of the key public health challenges of the next decade. Appropriate priority setting and budgeting can be assisted by economic data on the costs and cost-effectiveness of ART. The objectives of this research were therefore to estimate HIV healthcare utilisation, the unit costs of HIV services and the cost per life year (LY) and quality adjusted life year (QALY) gained of HIV treatment interventions from a provider's perspective.
Data on service utilisation, outcomes and costs were collected in the Western Cape Province of South Africa. Utilisation of a full range of HIV healthcare services was estimated from 1,729 patients in the Khayelitsha cohort (1,146 No-ART patient-years, 2,229 ART patient-years) using a before and after study design. Full economic costs of HIV-related services were calculated and were complemented by appropriate secondary data. ART effects (deaths, therapy discontinuation and switching to second-line) were from the same 1,729 patients followed for a maximum of 4 years on ART. No-ART outcomes were estimated from a local natural history cohort. Health-related quality of life was assessed on a sub-sample of 95 patients. Markov modelling was used to calculate lifetime costs, LYs and QALYs and uncertainty was assessed through probabilistic sensitivity analysis on all utilisation and outcome variables. An alternative scenario was constructed to enhance generalizability.
Discounted lifetime costs for No-ART and ART were US$2,743 and US$9,435 over 2 and 8 QALYs respectively. The incremental cost-effectiveness ratio through the use of ART versus No-ART was US$1,102 (95% CI 1,043-1,210) per QALY and US$984 (95% CI 913-1,078) per life year gained. In an alternative scenario where adjustments were made across cost, outcome and utilisation parameters, costs and outcomes were lower, but the ICER was similar.
Decisions to scale-up ART across sub-Saharan Africa have been made in the absence of incremental lifetime cost and cost-effectiveness data which seriously limits attempts to secure funds at the global level for HIV treatment or to set priorities at the country level. This article presents baseline cost-effectiveness data from one of the longest running public healthcare antiretroviral treatment programmes in Africa that could assist in enhancing efficient resource allocation and equitable access to HIV treatment.
PMCID: PMC1770938  PMID: 17147833
25.  Effect of discussion and deliberation on the public’s views of priority setting in health care: focus group study 
BMJ : British Medical Journal  1999;318(7188):916-919.
To investigate the extent to which people change their views about priority setting in health care as a result of discussion and deliberation.
A random sample of patients from two urban general practices was invited to attend two focus group meetings, a fortnight apart.
North Yorkshire Health Authority.
60 randomly chosen patients meeting in 10 groups of five to seven people.
Main outcome measures
Differences between people’s views at the start of the first meeting and at the end of the second meeting, after they have had an opportunity for discussion and deliberation, measured by questionnaires at the start of the first meeting and the end of the second meeting.
Respondents became more reticent about the role that their views should play in determining priorities and more sympathetic to the role that healthcare managers play. About a half of respondents initially wanted to give lower priority to smokers, heavy drinkers, and illegal drug users, but after discussion many no longer wished to discriminate against these people.
The public’s views about setting priorities in health care are systematically different when they have been given an opportunity to discuss the issues. If the considered opinions of the general public are required, surveys that do not allow respondents time or opportunity for reflection may be of doubtful value.
Key messagesEmphasis is being placed on involving the public in decisions about healthcare prioritiesDifferent techniques used to obtain the public’s views may give different resultsPeople’s views on setting priorities differ systematically when they have been given opportunity to discuss the issuesPeople become less willing to discriminate against smokers, heavy drinkers, and illegal drug users when they have had an opportunity to reflect on and discuss their viewsIf considered opinions are required, the value of surveys that do not allow time or opportunity for reflection may be indoubt
PMCID: PMC27815  PMID: 10102858

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