Challenges in the Evaluation of Emerging Highly Specialised Technologies: Is There a Role for Living HTA?

Tracy Merlin, Jackie Street, Drew Carter, Hossein Haji Ali Afzali

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
49 Downloads (Pure)


There is currently deep uncertainty about the clinical benefits and cost effectiveness of highly specialised technologies (HSTs), like gene and cell therapies. These treatments are novel, typically have high upfront costs, the patient populations are small and heterogenous, there is minimal information on their long-term safety and effectiveness, and data are limited and often of poor quality. With the increasing number of these technologies and their high cost burden on governments and health care providers, policy makers are currently walking a decision tightrope. On the one hand, an unfavourable funding decision could potentially limit patient access to life-saving treatments, while on the other, a favourable decision could result in unsustainable budget impacts and perhaps poorer patient health outcomes. Health technology assessment (HTA) is meant to determine the value of a health technology in order to promote an equitable, efficient, and high-quality health system. However, standard HTA processes have failed to mitigate the deep uncertainties associated with these technologies. In this paper, we propose a Living HTA framework to address these challenges. This framework includes a one-off process for making explicit the societal values associated with HSTs. These would inform the decision-making approach, data collection and the development of disease-specific reference models to be used by industry sponsors as the basis for their submissions for public funding. Coverage with an evidence development mechanism is also proposed by which data can be collected in real time to update the reference model on a rolling basis, thereby allowing re-assessment of the clinical and cost effectiveness of individual HSTs. The HTA would be ‘live’ until the results indicate there is sufficient certainty for the funding decision to be confirmed, the price changed or the funding removed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)823-830
Number of pages8
JournalApplied Health Economics and Health Policy
Issue number6
Early online date12 Oct 2023
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2023


  • highly specialised technologies (HSTs)
  • Living HTA framework
  • clinical benefits
  • cost effectiveness


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