Health technology assessment (HTA) must adapt to support the changing health system landscapes and improve access to valuable innovation under budgetary constraints. This is exemplified by the pricing and reimbursement of high-cost combination therapies increasingly used in oncology. Variability exists in current HTA practices across different countries, resulting in discrepancies in reimbursement outcomes and patient access. Using Italy as a case study, the objective was to assess the challenges faced by HTA agencies in the negotiation of pricing and reimbursement of combination therapies.
A targeted literature review of Italian HTA agency websites was undertaken to identify any literature/guidance relating to HTA decision-making for combination oncology therapies.
In Italy, there is no fixed cost-effectiveness threshold and decisions are based on multiple criteria. Managed market entry agreements are extensively used; price-volume agreements and drug registries are common. While this framework allows flexibility and avoids the rigidity of incremental cost-effectiveness ratio thresholds, it has raised concerns about transparency and budget impact. Combination therapies are not given specific concessions; however, market access for a combination of a new high-cost drug with an existing one is complex, particularly if the drugs are manufactured by different companies. The added value provided by the new drug in the combination should be rewarded while the older product benefits from the increased volume of use. The price of the older drug cannot be lowered unless the pricing and reimbursement contract is expiring or a new indication/formulation is pending, presenting a challenge to both pharmaceutical companies and HTA agencies.
Combination therapies pose a challenge for HTA agencies. In the Italian system this is partially mitigated by the use of multiple criteria for decision-making and managed access agreements. However, these approaches have also led to concerns about a lack of transparency in decision-making.