On 29 January 2013, a side meeting entitled “the establishment and evolution of health technology assessment organisations in low- and middle-income countries”, which was co-organized by HTAsiaLink and NICE international, intended to create an open space for sharing, learning and inspiring participants who are involved with the establishment and development of HTA units in LMICs.
The session started by a brief presentation of 3 countries’ experiences in developing HTA institutes; China, the Republic of Philippines and the Republic of Korea. All 3 HTA institutes and probably every HTA organization shared similar lessons from the beginning. These factors consisted of escalating healthcare expenditure and irrational use of certain technologies. However, the aforementioned factors contradict the constraint of healthcare resources; therefore the demands for research-based prioritization of health interventions have been increasing, especially for those who adopt the idea of a universal healthcare coverage system, which has led to the need for establishing an HTA institute.
A representative from China, Dr. Kun Zhao Director of China HTA Center under the Ministry of Health, recited that the China NICE or “NICER” was formed in 2010 with collaborations from both domestic and international research institutions as well as its governmental body. Even though, NICER is in its beginning process, there have been sharp increases in demand for HTA since 2009.
Dr. Kun addressed that ‘NICER’ is facing the challenge of doctors and health practitioners who are being unfamiliar with the term HTA, limitation in the information system, as well as a challenge in managing benefit package between rural and urban areas.
Next, the floor was given to Dr. MA. Virginia Ala from the Philippines, Program Manager of National Center for Pharmaceutical Access & Management, Department of Health, who affirmed that medicine prices in the Philippines have been historically high compared to other countries in the region. Their aim is to achieve universal healthcare coverage, and they are now moving forward to establish its HTA unit; however there are still many concerns such as changing in the practices of policymakers toward evidence-based decision-making, building sustainable HTA systems and capacity, forming an HTA system which responds to the local needs, as well as resistance from political, commercial, professional, donor interests.
Finally, Dr. Jeonghoon Ahn, who is a senior director of Office of Health Services Research, National Evidence-based healthcare Collaborating Agency (NECA) from Republic of Korea shared their experience, one of the earliest HTA organizations established in the Southeast Asia and Pacific region.
NECA was initiated in 2008 as part of Ministry of Health and Welfare. Its main responsibility is to assess drugs, medical devices, and diagnostic procedures, of which those HTA reports will be provided to the Korean Food and Drug Administration and Committee for New Health Technology Assessment, accordingly. At present, NECA has already conducted 943 health technology assessments which may be divided into four main categories: diagnostic tests; procedures; genetic tests; and others. One of NECA’s concerns is that they are facing the challenge of a lack of human capital.
Each HTA institute is facing various issues in each phrase of establishing and continuing their work as a national HTA agency. By sharing and learning from each other, they can enhance HTA knowledge and experience among partner agencies.