Determining the efficiency path to universal health coverage: cost-effectiveness thresholds for 174 countries based on growth in life expectancy and health expenditures

Elsevier, The Lancet Global Health, Volume 11, June 2023
Pichon-Riviere A., Drummond M., Palacios A., Garcia-Marti S., Augustovski F.

Background: Assessment of the efficiency of interventions is paramount to achieving equitable health-care systems. One key barrier to the widespread use of economic evaluations in resource allocation decisions is the absence of a widely accepted method to define cost-effectiveness thresholds to judge whether an intervention is cost-effective in a particular jurisdiction. We aimed to develop a method to estimate cost-effectiveness thresholds on the basis of health expenditures per capita and life expectancy at birth and empirically derive these thresholds for 174 countries. Methods: We developed a conceptual framework to assess how the adoption and coverage of new interventions with a given incremental cost-effectiveness ratio will affect the rate of increase of health expenditures per capita and life expectancy at the population level. The cost-effectiveness threshold can be derived so that the effect of new interventions on the evolution of life expectancy and health expenditure per capita is set within predefined goals. To provide guidance on cost-effectiveness thresholds and secular trends for 174 countries, we projected country-level health expenditure per capita and life expectancy increases by income level based on World Bank data for the period 2010–19. Findings: Cost-effectiveness thresholds per quality-adjusted life-year (QALY) ranged between US$87 (Democratic Republic of the Congo) and $95 958 (USA) and were less than 0·5 gross domestic product (GDP) per capita in 96% of low-income countries, 76% of lower-middle-income countries, 31% of upper-middle-income countries, and 26% of high-income countries. Cost-effectiveness thresholds per QALY were less than 1 GDP per capita in 168 (97%) of the 174 countries. Cost-effectiveness thresholds per life-year ranged between $78 and $80 529 and between 0·12 and 1·24 GDP per capita, and were less than 1 GDP per capita in 171 (98%) countries. Interpretation: This approach, based on widely available data, can provide a useful reference for countries using economic evaluations to inform resource-allocation decisions and can enrich international efforts to estimate cost-effectiveness thresholds. Our results show lower thresholds than those currently in use in many countries. Funding: Institute for Clinical Effectiveness and Health Policy (IECS).