Most biomedical research focuses on the quest to discover new methods
for reducing morbidity and mortality from serious illnesses. Once these interventions
are created and developed, the next steps in science are directed toward confirmation
of the efficacy and effectiveness of these interventions and then estimating
their potential impact. On some level, for most investigators, this represents
the be-all and end-all of research.
The last decade of medical practice and the changes that have occurred
have led to a dramatic alteration in how clinicians perceive the utility of
these interventions. No longer is it sufficient that a medication or procedure
prolong life or even cure the patient. Today, medical costs also play a role
in assessments and judgments of what interventions to use and under what circumstances
to use them. In an era of limited resources, these judgments enable physicians
to choose among interventions based on these considerations. Expensive drugs
or treatments that cure a few individuals may not stand up against less effective
but cheaper programs that can cure many. Because of this focus on the societal
benefits of therapy, cost-effectiveness has become an important, even crucial,
part of health policy decision-making with regard to the use of expensive,
or even inexpensive, treatment modalities.1- 4 Hence,
from a health policy perspective, a cost-effectiveness policy regarding testing
and preventive treatment options may save millions of dollars each year on
the costs of introducing highly expensive, but marginally effective, technology.
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