Blog Tag: HTA

European Commission Proposes Stronger Cooperation for Health Technology Assessment

On January 31, 2018, the European Commission adopted a legislative proposal with the aim of strengthening EU cooperation among Member States when conducting a Health Technology Assessment (HTA) of new medicines and certain new medical devices. The European Commission Fact Sheet explains that HTA is a procedure for assessing the added value of new medicines and medical devices, for example, assessing whether a new scanner will lead to a better diagnosis or whether a new surgery will improve the patient’s treatment.

BEUC, the European Consumer Organization, explained in a press release that at the moment, around 50 national and regional HTA authorities provide Member States with clinical data, however, work carried out by one authority is often replicated by another, leading to inefficiency in EU health systems.

The Commission’s proposal establishes four areas of joint work between Member States at EU-level:

  • Joint clinical assessments focusing on the most innovative health technologies with the most potential impact for patients;
  • Joint scientific consultations, or “early dialogue,” whereby developers can seek advice from HTA authorities;
  • Identification of emerging health technologies, commonly referred to as ‘horizon scanning’, to identify promising technologies early; and
  • Voluntary cooperation on other areas.

In a press release, the Commission added that “manufacturers will no longer have to adapt to different national procedures.” Not all work will be done jointly, the Commission’s press release indicates that individual EU countries will continue to be responsible for assessing non-clinical (e.g. economic, social, ethical) aspects of health technology, and making decisions on pricing and reimbursement. Thus, device manufacturers will still need to work with each Member State to determine pricing and reimbursement.

The Commission’s Q&A on the proposal explains that the joint clinical assessments will not affect market approval as they will only occur after the medical devices have obtained a CE mark. The Q&A also notes that HTA does not interfere with the conformity assessments of medical devices.

The Commission asserted in the Q&A that those benefiting from cooperation would include:

  • Patients, who may benefit from a faster uptake of promising innovative technologies;
  • Member States, whose national authorities will be able to pool their expertise and avoid duplication of efforts on clinical assessments, making better use of human and financial resources; and
  • Industry, including SMEs, who will benefit from clearer rules and greater predictability for their business planning, and cost savings.

In a statement to EURACTIV.com, Yannis Natsis, Policy Manager for the European Public Health Association, cautioned:

A European approach must improve on the current system and deliver meaningful innovation and affordable treatments. There must not be the slightest doubt that cooperation would weaken it or make the assessments less rigorous.

A timeline proposed by the Commission indicates that the proposal could be adopted by the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers in 2019, become applicable three years later, and then have a further three-year transitional period to allow for Member States to phase-in the new system.  The Q&A provides an example of a phase-in, suggesting the system could perform 10 to 15 joint clinical assessments in the first year of operation and reach around 65 assessments towards the end of the transitional period.

Report Finds European Union’s Assessment of High-Risk Medical Devices of Low Quality

A report appearing in the December 2017 issue of Value in Health, (a journal of the International Society for Pharmacoeconomics and Outcomes Research) concluded that assessments of high-risk medical devices in the European Union were of low quality – based on evidence from studies that were methodologically inadequate.

The authors of the report reviewed 1,376 health technology assessment reports (“HTAs”) of high-risk medical devices (“MDs”) that were filed between 2010 and 2015.  Of the 93 that were eligible for analysis, the researchers rated each of these studies on the following criteria:

  1. Evidence base
    • Was the evidence in the HTA based on submissions by the manufacturer, data identified by an independent source, or both?
  2. Type of evidence
    • Was the evidence in the HTA based on “direct” (e.g. head-to-head trials) or “indirect” evidence?
    • Direct evidence from well-conducted randomized controlled trials were seen as providing the most valid estimates regarding the effectiveness of competing health care interventions.
  3. Level of evidence
  4. Further considerations of scientific evidence
    • What were the total number of studies considered in each HTA report?

The report ultimately found that while almost all assessments considered “based their evaluation on direct evidence from independent systematic literature searches, good-quality data were scarce.”  The report further stated that “our findings illustrate that even if systematic reviews and RCTs [randomized controlled trials] were available for assessment, most of these studies showed an unclear or high RoB [risk of bias] according to the specific tools used in their reports.”

The report ultimately concluded that:

In the EU countries, MDs are essentially regulated in the same way they have been since the 1990s. This means that high-risk MDs can enter the market and be used in humans without the requirement of evidence from robust clinical studies. As a consequence, scientific evidence prior to market approval of high-risk MDs is often based only on evidence from studies that were methodologically inadequate.

In summary, the report proposed that “additional changes are necessary, specifically with regard to the marketing authorization process of MDs, with stricter quality requirements based on methodologically robust trials, possibly in combination with other evidence sources.”