Application of Classic Utilities to Published Pediatric Cost-Utility Studies

  • S. Maria E. Finnell
    Address correspondence to S. Maria E. Finnell, MD, MS, Children’s Health Services Research, Department of Pediatrics, Indiana University School of Medicine, HITS Building, Rm 1020N, 410 West 10th St., Indianapolis, IN 46202.
    Department of Pediatrics, Children’s Health Services Research, Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, Ind

    Regenstrief Institute for Healthcare, Indianapolis, Ind
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  • Aaron E. Carroll
    Department of Pediatrics, Children’s Health Services Research, Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, Ind

    Center for Health Policy and Professionalism Research, Indianapolis, Ind

    Regenstrief Institute for Healthcare, Indianapolis, Ind
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  • Stephen M. Downs
    Department of Pediatrics, Children’s Health Services Research, Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, Ind

    Center for Health Policy and Professionalism Research, Indianapolis, Ind

    Regenstrief Institute for Healthcare, Indianapolis, Ind
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Published:November 11, 2011DOI:



      Economic analyses, such as cost-utility analyses (CUAs), are dependent on the quality of the data used. Our objective was to test how health utility values (measurements of patient preference) assessed by recommended methods (classic utilities) would impact the conclusions in published pediatric CUAs.


      Classic utilities for pediatric health states were obtained by recommended utility assessment methods, time trade-off, and standard gamble in 4016 parent interviews. To test the impact of these utilities on published studies, we obtained a sample of published pediatric CUAs by searching Medline, EMBASE, EconLit, Health Technology Assessment Database, Cochrane Database on Systematic Reviews, Database of Abstracts of Reviews of Effects, and the Cost Effective Analysis (CEA) Registry at Tufts Medical Center, using search terms for cost-utility analysis. Articles were included when results were presented as cost per quality adjusted life-years (QALYs), the interventions were for children <18 years of age and included at least one of the following health states: attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, asthma, gastroenteritis, hearing loss, mental retardation, otitis media, seizure disorder, or vision loss. Studies that did not include these or equivalent health states were excluded. For each CUA, we determined utilities (values for patient preference), the utility assessment method used, and presence of one-way sensitivity analyses (SAs) on utilities. When one-way SAs were conducted, we determined if using our classic utilities would change the result of the CUA. When an SA was not presented, we determined if using our classic utilities would tend to support or not support the published conclusions.


      We evaluated 39 articles. Eighteen articles presented results of one-way SAs on utilities. Seven articles presented SAs over a range that included our classic utilities. In 4 of the 7, using classic utilities would change the conclusion of the study. For the 32 articles where no one-way SA were presented (n = 21), or where the classic utilities fell outside the range tested (n =11), a change to classic utility would tend against the study conclusion in 12 articles (31%).


      More than a third of published CUA studies could change if pediatric utilities obtained by recommended, classic methods were used. One-way SAs on utilities are often not presented, making comparison between studies challenging.


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