Cost-effectiveness thresholds: methods for setting and examples from around the world

André Soares Santos*, Augusto Afonso Guerra-Junior, Brian Godman, Alec Morton, Cristina Mariano Ruas

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

36 Citations (Scopus)


Introduction: Cost-effectiveness thresholds (CETs) are used to judge if an intervention represents sufficient value for money to merit adoption in healthcare systems. The study was motivated by the Brazilian context of HTA, where meetings are being conducted to decide on the definition of a threshold. Areas covered: An electronic search was conducted on Medline (via PubMed), Lilacs (via BVS) and ScienceDirect followed by a complementary search of references of included studies, Google Scholar and conference abstracts. Cost-effectiveness thresholds are usually calculated through three different approaches: the willingness-to-pay, representative of welfare economics; the precedent method, based on the value of an already funded technology; and the opportunity cost method, which links the threshold to the volume of health displaced. An explicit threshold has never been formally adopted in most places. Some countries have defined thresholds, with some flexibility to consider other factors. An implicit threshold could be determined by research of funded cases. Expert commentary: CETs have had an important role as a ‘bridging concept’ between the world of academic research and the ‘real world’ of healthcare prioritization. The definition of a cost-effectiveness threshold is paramount for the construction of a transparent and efficient Health Technology Assessment system.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)277-288
Number of pages12
JournalExpert Review of Pharmacoeconomics and Outcomes Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 4 May 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Cost-benefit analysis
  • cost-effectiveness analysis
  • economics, medical
  • economics, pharmaceutical
  • expert testimony
  • review
  • technology assessment, biomedical


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