Harmonization of HTA--based reimbursement and regulatory approval activities: a qualitative study.
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BACKGROUND: Regulatory approval and reimbursement are necessary to bring health technologies to market. As both are distinct processes, the lack of interaction between regulators and payers has been criticized for resulting in health system inefficiencies. OBJECTIVES: This study describes the experiences of health system stakeholders on the development and implementation of initiatives to better harmonize HTA-reimbursement and regulatory activities, as well as Canadian perceptions on such initiatives. METHODS: Thematic analysis of semi-structured interviews was conducted. Participants represented those whom have published or worked actively in this area or who held positions in HTA and/or reimbursement agencies that gave them insight into the Canadian healthcare system. Interviews were recorded, transcribed and analyzed to identify emerging themes and relationships. RESULTS: Fourteen individuals from twelve organizations participated, including representatives from Canada, US, UK and Netherlands. Harmonization was identified as either a means to: (i) develop economies of scale in the generation of clinical data; and/or (ii) align the lifecycle of a health technology. For such initiatives to be successfully implemented, the following key issues emerged: (i) fostering healthy relationships; (ii) promoting well-intentions; (iii) defining governance and leadership clearly; and (iv) securing organizational infrastructure. CONCLUSIONS: Attempts to harmonize reimbursement and regulatory activities is in its infancy; although, much can be learned from current Canadian and international experiences. Within Canada there is much interest, although concerns have been raised on the extent to which harmonization is possible. Successful policy implementation would require inter-agency collaborations, with particular attention towards capacity building and strong leadership.
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