Objectives: This paper gives an overview of health technology assessment (HTA) in Belgium.
Methods: The information included in the overview is based on legal documents and publicly available year reports of the Belgian Health Care Knowledge Centre (KCE).
Results: Belgium has a relatively young history in HTA. The principle of evidence-based medicine (EBM) was introduced in the drug reimbursement procedure in 2001, with the establishment of the Drug Reimbursement Committee (DRC). The DRC assesses the efficacy, safety, convenience, applicability, and effectiveness of a drug relative to existing treatment alternatives. For some drugs, relative cost-effectiveness is also evaluated. The activities of the DRC can, therefore, be considered to be the first official HTA activities in Belgium. Later, in 2003, KCE was established. Its mission was to perform policy preparing research in the healthcare and health insurance sector and to give advice to policy makers about how they can obtain an efficient allocation of limited healthcare resources that optimizes the quality and accessibility of health care. This broad mission has been operationalized by activities in three domains of research: HTA, health services research, and good clinical practice. KCE is independent from the policy maker. Its HTAs contain policy recommendations that may inform policy decisions but are not binding.
Conclusions: Although the Belgian history of HTA is relatively short, its foundations are strong and the impact of HTA increasing. Nevertheless KCE has many challenges for the future, including continued quality assurance, further development of international collaboration, and further development of methodological guidance for HTA.