HTA in the European network: Osteoporosis screening without proof of benefit

September 17, 2019

Learning from each other and benefiting from each other: This is the basic idea behind the European Network for Health Technology Assessment (EUnetHTA). The aim of the collaboration is to promote scientific and technical collaboration between European health technology assessment (HTA) agencies across borders. A second aim is to avoid unnecessary duplication of work - not every diagnostic or therapeutic intervention requires a separate HTA report in every country. HTA reports prepared by European countries or assessments prepared jointly by individual HTA agencies may potentially also be used in other countries as a basis for reimbursement decisions. The EU Commission is striving to create a legal basis for this in the near future.

For the first time, researchers from the Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG) were in charge of preparing a EUnetHTA report. According to the conclusion, the benefit of screening for osteoporosis in the general population has not yet been proven. The eight studies available do not prove that screening prevents fractures. Researchers from the Swiss Network for HTA (SNHTA) co-authored the report, which was reviewed by further researchers from Barcelona (Spain), Vienna (Austria) and Bucharest (Romania) before it was published.

Professor Dr. Stefan Sauerland, Head of IQWiG's Department of Non-Drug Interventions and one of the main authors of the report notes: "The collaboration with our European colleagues in preparing the report worked well. The assessment was conducted by consensus. The prerequisite for this was that everyone involved applied the same standards for scientific assessments to this project."

Within Europe there are still major differences as to when, how and by whom benefit assessments are conducted. IQWiG therefore remains sceptical about the EU Commission's plans for Pan-European, uniform and nationally binding HTA projects. This particularly applies to the area of drug interventions.

The EUnetHTA activities and the report on osteoporosis screening are funded as part of a research project of the EU Commission. The current report therefore has no influence on decisions for the German health care system.

Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care

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