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Valuing health directly

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Publisher
BMJ Publishing Group
Publication Date
Keywords
  • Hv Social Pathology. Social And Public Welfare. Criminology
  • Ra Public Aspects Of Medicine
  • Ra0421 Public Health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine

Abstract

Valuing the relative benefits of different treatments helps us to allocate scarce healthcare resources to where they do the most good. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) advises on the cost effectiveness of treatments and recommends that health benefits should be valued in terms of gains in quality adjusted life years (QALYs). This approach assigns a value between 0 (for death) and 1 (for full health) to each health state and then multiplies that value by how long the state lasts. It makes good sense to value health benefits by accounting for duration in this way. We do, however, have serious concerns about NICE’s recommendations for the “quality adjustment” part of the QALY. NICE suggests asking members of the general public to think about how many years of life they would be willing to trade to avoid different states of health. The trouble is that these hypothetical preferences often bear little relation to the real experiences of those in the health states. This article offers an alternative means of valuation that could help direct resources to treatments in proportion to the real suffering they alleviate.

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