Are medical devices cost-effective?

Date: November 25, 2021
Journal: Applied Health Economics and Health Policy
Citation: Chambers, J.D., Silver, M.C., Berklein, F.C. et al. Are Medical Devices Cost-Effective?. Appl Health Econ Health Policy (2021).



Medical devices can offer important therapeutic advances but, as for any medical interventions, there are questions about their costs and benefits. We examined health benefits and costs for pre-market approved (PMA) devices approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) (1999–2015), grouping them by generic category (e.g., drug-eluting stents) and indication.


We searched PubMed for incremental health gain estimates [measured in quality-adjusted life-years (QALYs)] and incremental costs for each device category compared to previously available treatments. We calculated incremental cost-effectiveness ratios by dividing the average incremental costs by the average incremental QALY gains. In sensitivity analysis, we repeated the analysis when excluding industry-funded studies.


We identified at least one relevant cost-utility or comparative-effectiveness study for 88 devices (15.9% of non-cosmetic devices approved from 1999 to 2015), and at least one device across 53 (26.2%) generic categories. The median (mean) incremental cost across generic device categories was $1701 ($13,320). The median (mean) incremental health gain across generic device categories was 0.13 (0.46) QALYs. We found that cost-effectiveness ratios for 36 of 53 (68%) and 43 of 53 (81%) device categories fell below (were more favorable than) $50,000 and $150,000 per QALY, respectively. Results were roughly similar when we excluded industry-funded studies.


We found that roughly one-quarter of the major PMA medical device categories have published cost-effectiveness evidence accessible through a large, publicly available database. Available evidence suggests that devices generally offer good value, as judged relative to established cost-effectiveness benchmarks.

More Publications