Making recommendations to subsidize new health technologies in Australia: A qualitative study of decision-makers’ perspectives on committee processes
Objectives: To explore experiences of, and perspectives on, health technology assessment (HTA) processes used to produce recommendations about subsidizing new medicines, and medical technologies in Australia, from the perspectives of those experienced in these processes. Methods: Semi-structured interviews with a diverse group of 18 informants currently or previously members of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC) or the Medical Services Advisory Committee (MSAC). Participants were interviewed September 2021-February 2022. Transcripts were analyzed using reflexive thematic analysis. Results: 3 major themes were identified: contrasting technical and decision-making stages, resisting reductionist approaches, and navigating decision-making trade-offs. Participants discussed the complexities of the evaluative HTA process, especially when considering uncertainty in the evidence. As part of the current process, a deliberative decision-making stage was considered essential, allowing a flexible approach to decision making to consider factors beyond strength and quality of quantifiable data in the technical evaluation. Participants acknowledged these less-quantifiable factors were sometimes considered implicitly or were difficult to describe and this, paired with commercial in confidence requirements, presented challenges with respect to the desire to increase transparency. Conclusion (s): As HTA processes for new medicines and medical technologies in Australia continue to be reviewed, the balance between retaining flexibility during deliberation, confidentiality for sponsors and the public's desire for greater transparency may be a fruitful area for continuing research.
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