23 January 2019 - There has been considerable debate on the extent to which future costs should be included in cost-effectiveness analyses of health technologies.
In this article, we summarise the theoretical debates and empirical research in this area and highlight the conclusions that can be drawn for current practice. For future related and future unrelated medical costs, the literature suggests that inclusion is required to obtain optimal outcomes from available resources. This conclusion does not depend on the perspective adopted by the decision maker. Future non-medical costs are only relevant when adopting a societal perspective; these should be included if the benefits of non-medical consumption and production are also included in the evaluation.
Whether this is the case currently remains unclear, given that benefits are typically quantified in quality-adjusted life-years and only limited research has been performed on the extent to which these (implicitly) capture benefits beyond health. Empirical research has shown that the impact of including future costs can be large, and that estimation of such costs is feasible.