Use and misuse of cost-effectiveness terminology in the gastroenterology literature: a systematic review
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OBJECTIVES: The increased popularity of economic analyses for evaluating medical interventions has given rise to concern about the rigor with which economic constructs and terminology are used. True cost-effectiveness analysis considers both the costs and outcomes of alternative interventions. A systematic review of the gastroenterology literature was undertaken to evaluate how appropriately cost-effectiveness is assessed. METHODS: A structured MEDLINE search identified all studies published in major gastroenterology journals between 1980 and 1998 that claimed in their abstracts to have assessed the cost-effectiveness of an intervention. Blinded copies of eligible studies were assessed by two independent reviewers who used standard criteria to evaluate the use of economic terminology and key economic constructs. Discrepancies were resolved by consensus. Studies met a "broad criterion" for appropriateness by evaluating both costs and effects and a "strict criterion" by demonstrating dominance of one strategy or considering both incremental costs and incremental effects. RESULTS: Of 110 eligible studies, 77 (70.0%) met the broad criterion and 62 (56.4%) met the strict criterion for appropriateness. This did not seem to vary with either journal impact factor or publication year. Only eight of 18 studies reporting an incremental cost-effectiveness ratio compared its value to an external standard. Few studies explicitly stated their analytic perspective, and a minority of those with time horizons longer than 1 yr had discounted future costs or effects. CONCLUSIONS: Although most studies seem to use cost-effectiveness terminology well, there remains room to improve the rigor with which economic terminology and constructs are applied.
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