This study aims to conduct a systematic review of economic evaluations of COVID-19 interventions and to examine whether and how these studies incorporate non-health impacts and distributional concerns.
We searched the National Institutes of Health’s COVID-19 Portfolio as of May 20, 2021, and supplemented our search with additional sources. We included original articles, including preprints, evaluating both the health and economic effects of a COVID-19–related intervention. Using a pre-specified data collection form, 2 reviewers independently screened, reviewed, and extracted information about the study characteristics, intervention types, and incremental cost-effectiveness ratios (ICERs). We used an Impact Inventory to catalog the types of non-health impacts considered.
We included 70 articles, almost half of which were preprints. Most articles (56%) included at least one non-health impact, but fewer (21%) incorporated non-economic consequences. Few articles (17%) examined subgroups of interest. After excluding negative ICERs, the median ICER for the entire sample (n = 243 ratios) was $67,000/quality-adjusted life-year (QALY) (interquartile range [IQR] $9000-$893,000/QALY). Interventions including a pharmaceutical component yielded a median ICER of $93,000/QALY (IQR $4000-$7,809,000/QALY), whereas interventions including a non-pharmaceutical component were slightly more cost-effective overall with a median ICER of $81,000/QALY (IQR $12,000-$1,034,000/QALY). Interventions reported to be highly cost-effective were treatment, public information campaigns, quarantining identified contacts/cases, canceling public events, and social distancing.
Our review highlights the lack of consideration of non-health and distributional impacts among COVID-19–related economic evaluations. Accounting for non-health impacts and distributional effects is essential for comprehensive assessment of interventions’ value and imperative for generating cost-effectiveness evidence for both current and future pandemics.