Cost-effectiveness analysis and innovation

Publication Name: 
Journal of Health Economics
Publication Authors: 
Jena AB, Philipson TJ
Date of Publication: 
Jan 2008

While cost-effectiveness (CE) analysis has provided a guide to allocating often scarce resources spent on medical technologies, less emphasis has been placed on the effect of such criteria on the behavior of innovators who make health care technologies available in the first place. A better understanding of the link between innovation and cost-effectiveness analysis is particularly important given the large role of technological change in the growth in health care spending and the growing interest of explicit use of CE thresholds in leading technology adoption in several Westernized countries. We analyze CE analysis in a standard market context, and stress that a technology’s cost-effectiveness is closely related to the consumer surplus it generates. Improved CE therefore often clashes with interventions to stimulate producer surplus, such as patents. We derive the inconsistency between technology adoption based on CE analysis and economic efficiency. Indeed, static efficiency, dynamic efficiency, and improved patient health may all be induced by the cost-effectiveness of the technology being at its worst level. As producer appropriation of the social surplus of an innovation is central to the dynamic efficiency that should guide CE adoption criteria, we exemplify how appropriation can be inferred from existing CE estimates. For an illustrative sample of technologies considered, we find that the median technology has an appropriation of about 15%. To the extent that such incentives are deemed either too low or too high compared to dynamically efficient levels, CE thresholds may be appropriately raised or lowered to improve dynamic efficiency.

(January 2008)

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