Cost-effectiveness analysis and formulary decision making in England: Findings from research

Iestyn Williams, Stirling Bryan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

43 Citations (Scopus)


In a context of rapid technological advances in health care and increasing demand for expensive treatments, local formulary committees are key players in the management of scarce resources. However, little is known about the information and processes used when making decisions on the inclusion of new treatments. This paper reports research on the use of economic evaluations in technology coverage decisions in England, although the findings have a relevance to other health care systems with devolved responsibility for resource allocation. It reports a study of four local formulary committees in which both qualitative and quantitative data were collected. Our main research finding is that it is an exception for cost-effectiveness analysis to inform technology coverage decisions. Barriers to use include access and expertise levels, concerns relating to the independence of analyses and problems with implementation of study recommendations. Further barriers derive from the constraints on decision makers, a lack of clarity over functions and aims of local committees, and the challenge of disinvestment in medical technologies. The relative weakness of the research-practice dynamics in this context suggests the need for a rethinking of the role of both analysts and decision makers. Our research supports the view that in order to be useful, analysis needs to better reflect the constraints of the local decision-making environment. We also recommend that local decision-making committees and bodies in the National Health Service more clearly identify the 'problems' which they are charged with solving and how their outputs contribute to broader finance and commissioning functions. This would help to establish the ways in which the routine use of cost-effectiveness analysis might become a reality.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2116-2129
Number of pages14
JournalSocial Science & Medicine
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2007


  • cost effectiveness
  • technology coverage
  • economic evaluation
  • formulary decision making
  • England
  • UK
  • health policy
  • National health service (NHS)


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