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A discrete choice experiment investigating preferences for funding drugs used to treat orphan diseases: an exploratory study

  • Emmanouil Mentzakis (a1), Patricia Stefanowska (a2) and Jeremiah Hurley (a3)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 21 December 2010

Policy debate about funding criteria for drugs used to treat rare, orphan diseases is gaining prominence. This study presents evidence from a discrete choice experiment using a convenience sample of university students to investigate individual preferences regarding public funding for drugs used to treat rare diseases and common diseases. This pilot study finds that: other things equal, the respondents do not prefer to have the government spend more for drugs used to treat rare diseases; that respondents are not willing to pay more per life year gained for a rare disease than a common disease; and that respondents weigh relevant attributes of the coverage decisions (e.g. costs, disease severity and treatment effectiveness) similarly for both rare and common diseases. The results confirm the importance of severity and treatment effectiveness in preferences for public funding. Although this is the first study of its kind, the results send a cautionary message regarding the special treatment of orphan drugs in coverage decision-making.

Corresponding author
Correspondence to: Emmanouil Mentzakis, Department of Economics, McMaster University, 1280 Main Street West, Hamilton, Ontario, L8S 4M4, Canada. Email:
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Health Economics, Policy and Law
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