Objectives: Our study addresses the important issue of estimating treatment costs from historical data. It is a problem frequently faced by health technology assessment analysts. We compared four approaches used to estimate current costs when good quality contemporary data are not available using liver transplantation as an example.
Methods: First, the total cost estimates extracted for patients from a cohort study, conducted in the 1990s, were inflated using a published inflation multiplier. Second, resource use estimates from the cohort study were extracted for hepatitis C patients and updated using current unit costs. Third, expert elicitation was carried out to identify changes in clinical practice over time and quantify current resource use. Fourth, routine data on resource use were obtained from National Health Service Blood and Transplant (NHSBT).
Results: The first two methods did not account for changes in clinical practice. Also the first was not specific to hepatitis patients. The use of experts confirmed significant changes in clinical practice. However, the quantification of resource use using experts is challenging as clinical specialists may not have a complete overview of clinical pathway. The NHSBT data are the most accurate reflection of transplantation and posttransplantation phase; however, data were not available for the whole pathway of care. The best estimate of total cost, combining NHSBT data and expert elicitation, is £121,211.
Discussion: Observational data from routine care are potentially the most reliable reflection of current resource use. Efforts should be made to make such data readily available and accessible to researchers. Expert elicitation provided reasonable estimates.