Using Value of Information Analysis to Inform Publicly Funded Research Priorities
Mark J. Sculpher
Introduction: The purpose of this article is to demonstrate the application and feasibility of using value of information analysis to help set priorities for research as part of the UK National Health Service (NHS) Health Technology Assessment Programme. Probabilistic decision analysis and value of information methods were applied to a research topic under consideration by the National Coordinating Centre for Health Technology Assessment (NCCHTA), in the UK. The case study presented considers whether long-term, low-dose antibacterial treatment of recurrent urinary tract infections (UTIs) in children is effective and cost effective compared with short-term antibacterial therapy. Methods: A probabilistic decision-analytic model was developed, within which evidence from published sources was synthesised. Eight subgroups were considered and defined in terms of sex and presence of vesico-ureteral reflux (VUR). Costs were assessed from an NHS perspective, and benefits were expressed as quality-adjusted life-years (QALYs). Simulation methods were used to determine the probability that alternative therapies would be cost effective at a range of threshold values that the NHS may attach to an additional QALY. Value of information analysis was used to quantify the cost of uncertainty associated with the decision about which therapy to adopt, which indicates the maximum value of future research. The feasibility and practicality of using value of information methods to help inform research prioritisation was evaluated. Results: At a threshold value for an additional QALY of Lstg 30_000, long-term antibacterial treatment may be regarded as cost effective for all eight patient groups. There was, however, substantial uncertainty surrounding the choice of antibacterial. Discussion/conclusion: The use of value of information methods was feasible and could inform research prioritisation for the NHS. In the context of this specific decision faced by the NHS, the results show that long-term low-dose antibacterials for preventing recurrent UTIs may be cost effective, based on current evidence. However, the analysis suggests that further primary research with longer follow-up may be worthwhile, particularly for girls with no VUR.
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