International Journal of Technology Assessment in Health Care

General Essays

Surrogate outcomes in health technology assessment: An international comparison

Marcial Velasco Garridoa1 and Sandra Mangiapanea2

a1 Technische Universität Berlin

a2 Central Research Institute of Ambulatory Health Care in Germany

Abstract

Objectives: Our aim was to review the recommendations given by health technology assessment (HTA) institutions in their methodological guidelines concerning the use of surrogate outcomes in their assessments. In a second step, we aimed at quantifying the role surrogate parameters take in assessment reports.

Methods: We analyzed methodological papers and guidelines from HTA agencies with International Network of Agencies for Health Technology Assessment membership as well as from institutions related to pharmaceutical regulation (i.e., reimbursement, pricing). We analyzed the use of surrogate outcomes in a sample of HTA reports randomly drawn from the HTA database. We checked methods, results (including evidence tables), and conclusions sections and extracted the outcomes reported. We report descriptive statistics on the presence of surrogate outcomes in the reports.

Results: We identified thirty-four methodological guidelines, twenty of them addressing the issue of outcome parameter choice and the problematic of surrogate outcomes. Overall HTA agencies call on caution regarding the reliance on surrogate outcomes. None of the agencies has provided a list or catalog of acceptable and validated surrogate outcomes. We extracted the outcome parameter of 140 HTA reports. Only around half of the reports determined the outcomes for the assessment prospectively. Surrogate outcomes had been used in 62 percent of the reports. However, only 3.6 percent were based upon surrogate outcomes exclusively. All of them assessed diagnostic or screening technologies and the surrogate outcomes were predominantly test characteristics.

Conclusions: HTA institutions seem to agree on a cautious approach to the use of surrogate outcomes in technology assessment. Thorough assessment of health technologies should not rely exclusively on surrogate outcomes.

Footnotes

This study originated in a project commissioned and funded by the German Agency for Health Technology Assessment (DAHTA@DIMDI) (HTA Report Grant 53–06). The Agency is part of the German Institute for Medical Documentation and Information, which is a federal authority subordinated to the Federal Ministry of Health. The full report of the project will be published in German during 2009 at http://www.dimdi.de/static/en/hta/index.htm.