Expedited Knowledge Synthesis of Health Policy and Systems: Rapid Reviews to Determine the Requirement for a Full Health Technology Assessment

February 2022

Health technology assessment (HTA) is a multidisciplinary process employed to systematically examine the costs and outcomes associated with new health technologies. As the demand for the reimbursement of drugs from finite health care budgets increase, greater pressure on HTA agencies persists. One such response to pressure is rapid reviews (RRs).

In Ireland, these HTAs are assessed by the National Centre for Pharmacoeconomics (NCPE). In 2009, NCPE introduced RRs to identify drugs that do not require further assessment in the form of the previously established full HTA process. On average, RRs take about four weeks to complete, whereas the full HTA can take several months. An analysis of 446 RRs submitted to the NCPE over 10-years showed half of the RRs submitted did not require a full HTA while drugs for cancer indications and “first-in-class” were more likely to require a full HTA.

RRs reduce the NCPE’s appraisal time necessary to evaluate all submissions and allow appropriate resource prioritization. However, the rapidity refers to the accelerated process and should not lose any important information that could be expected from full reviews; the goal is to maintain methodological rigor while simplifying features of the full reviews.

Nevertheless, RRs are a useful strategy to reduce the burden on health system decision makers and, when well executed, can be efficient. They are a promising avenue to support evidence-informed policymaking and health systems strengthening.

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