Health technology assessments (HTA) for combination drug therapies in oncology are increasingly common. Companies face multiple challenges when determining their economic value due to their complexity and high cost, while payers must balance the need for these vital innovations with sensitivity to rising costs. The study objective was to evaluate the current HTA frameworks in Europe and identify the potential barriers/solutions to reimbursement of brand-on-brand (BoB) combination therapy.
A targeted literature review of HTA agency websites was undertaken to identify any literature/guidance relating to HTA decision-making for combination oncology therapies in France, Germany, Sweden, and the UK.
In France and the UK, BoB HTA decisions reflect clinical- and cost-effectiveness. Combination therapies have been accepted for use in France and the UK, for example, dabrafenib plus trametinib, are assessed through standard HTA processes, exemplifying that positive reimbursement is not unattainable where there is an unmet need and high clinical value. Despite this flexibility, many therapies will fail to prove their cost-effectiveness, resulting in delays or arbitrary pricing decisions. Potential solutions are the use of the ‘efficiency frontier’, as typified by the German HTA system, giving more ‘scope‘ to expensive innovations; or the Swedish HTA approach, which applies variable cost-effectiveness thresholds according to therapeutic area, disease severity, and social criteria. Other possibilities include indication-specific pricing, multiple-criteria decision analysis, and net monetary benefit with willingness-to-trade weights. One likely issue to arise is when different companies are involved, necessitating co-operation. In this scenario, a simplistic solution would be arbitration of the division of the combined price, circumventing the need for HTA agencies to make changes to decision-making criteria.
Constructive debates and collaboration between industry and decision-makers are vital to achieve a harmonized HTA process for high-cost combination therapies which offer advanced benefits and improved safety outcomes, whilst satisfying HTA bodies and providing better access for patients.