Alternative Approaches to Quality-Adjusted Life-Year Estimation Within Standard Cost-Effectiveness Models: Literature Review, Feasibility Assessment, and Impact Evaluation (Editor's Choice)



The quality-adjusted life-year (QALY) has been long debated, but alternative estimation approaches have not been comprehensively evaluated. Our objective was to identify alternatives, characterize them by implementation feasibility, and evaluate the impact of implementing feasible options in cost-effectiveness models developed for the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review reports.


We conducted a literature review combining keywords relating to QALYs, methodology alternatives, and cost-effectiveness in PubMed, EconLit, Web of Science, and MEDLINE. Articles that discussed alternatives to the conventional QALY were included. Alternatives were characterized by type, data availability, calculation burden, and overall implementation feasibility. The subset of feasible alternatives, that is, sufficient data and methodology compatible with incorporation into common modeling approaches, were evaluated according to impact on incremental QALYs, incremental net monetary benefit (iNMB), intervention rankings, and proportion of interventions with a positive iNMB.


We identified 28 articles discussing 9 alternatives. Feasible alternatives were using patient preference (PP) data; equity weighting according to baseline utility, fair innings, or proportional QALY shortfall; and the equal value of life-years-gained approach. All alternatives affected the incremental QALY and iNMB outcomes, rankings, and proportion of interventions with a positive iNMB. The PP alternative had the largest and most consistent impact. The PP impact on the proportion of interventions with a positive iNMB, was in the negative direction.


Our work is the first comprehensive evaluation of proposed alternatives to the conventional QALY. We found robust literature but few options that were feasible to be implemented in current healthcare decision-making processes.


Josh J. Carlson Elizabeth D. Brouwer Eunice Kim Phoebe Wright R. Brett McQueen

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