Health Economics, Policy and Law

Articles

A discrete choice experiment investigating preferences for funding drugs used to treat orphan diseases: an exploratory study

Emmanouil Mentzakisa1 c1, Patricia Stefanowskaa2 and Jeremiah Hurleya3

a1 Department of Economics, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

a2 Centre for Health Economics and Policy Analysis, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

a3 Department of Economics, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada and Centre for Health Economics and Policy Analysis, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

Abstract

Policy debate about funding criteria for drugs used to treat rare, orphan diseases is gaining prominence. This study presents evidence from a discrete choice experiment using a convenience sample of university students to investigate individual preferences regarding public funding for drugs used to treat rare diseases and common diseases. This pilot study finds that: other things equal, the respondents do not prefer to have the government spend more for drugs used to treat rare diseases; that respondents are not willing to pay more per life year gained for a rare disease than a common disease; and that respondents weigh relevant attributes of the coverage decisions (e.g. costs, disease severity and treatment effectiveness) similarly for both rare and common diseases. The results confirm the importance of severity and treatment effectiveness in preferences for public funding. Although this is the first study of its kind, the results send a cautionary message regarding the special treatment of orphan drugs in coverage decision-making.

(Online publication December 21 2010)

Correspondence:

c1 Correspondence to: Emmanouil Mentzakis, Department of Economics, McMaster University, 1280 Main Street West, Hamilton, Ontario, L8S 4M4, Canada. Email: mentzak@mcmaster.ca