A critical review of health-related economic evaluations in Australia: implications for health policy

Glenn Salkeld*, Peter Davey, Gaston Arnolda

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)


In Australia, as in many other countries, economic evaluation is increasingly seen by health care policy makers as a useful aid to priority setting and resource allocation. In Australia, economic evaluation is now a requirement for new drugs to be listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme which provides a government subsidy on the price of listed drugs for purchasers. Yet, despite recognition of the importance of economic evaluation by policy makers, there is a paucity of published evaluations in Australia. We reviewed all of the 33 health-related economic evaluations conducted in Australia and subsequently published since 1978. This study assesses how well informed decision makers might be if they used the results and conclusions of published economic evaluations as an aid to resource allocation. The review highlights several issues: (i) it is difficult to interpret the conclusions or assess the generalisability of individual papers without information on the context of the original study; (ii) the choice of comparator(s) was often unexplained and most papers did not employ marginal analysis; (iii) in the absence of marginal analysis, the comparability of cost-effectiveness ratios in league tables must be questioned as well as the completeness (were all the relevant alternatives included?) of studies; and (iv) the quality of effectiveness evidence varies enormously, with some authors content to use the best available evidence (even if it is of poor quality). The development of standards for economic evaluation methods might ensure a more consistent and scientific approach to evaluative work, but they cannot guarantee it. A more concerted effort to disseminate the principles and methods of economic evaluation to policy makers and non-economist evaluators might be a more important precursor to improving the credibility and usefulness of economic evaluations in priority setting.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)111-125
Number of pages15
JournalHealth Policy
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1995
Externally publishedYes


  • Critical appraisal
  • Economic evaluation
  • Methodology and policy


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