More Unnecessary Imaginary Worlds - Part 1: The Institute for Clinical and Economic Review’s Evidence Report on Janus Kinase (JAK) Inhibitors in Rheumatoid Arthritis

  • Paul Langley University of Minnesota
Keywords: Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), Janus Kinase (JAK) Inhibitors, ICER pseudoscience, unnecessary distraction, patient voice, Rasch Measurement Theory (RMT)


Previous commentaries in the Formulary Evaluation section of INNOVATIONS in Pharmacy have pointed to the lack of credibility in modeled claims for cost-effectiveness and associated recommendations for pricing by the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review (ICER). The principal objection to ICER reports has been that their modeled claims fail the standards of normal science: they are best seen as pseudoscience. The purpose of this latest commentary is to consider the recently released ICER evidence report for Janus Kinase (JAK) Inhibitors. As ICER continues, in the case of JAK Inhibitors, to apply its modeled cost utility framework with consequent recommendations for pricing adjustments, these recommendations also lack credibility. In contrast with previous ICER evidence reports, the present report adopts only a 12-month timeframe, one due, in large part, to ICER being unable to justify assumptions to drive its construction of imaginary worlds beyond 12 months. This commentary emphasizes again, why the ICER methodology fails to meet the standards of normal science. Claims made by ICER for the competing JAK Inhibitor therapies lack credibility, are impossible to evaluate, let alone replicate across treatment settings. Even so, it is important to examine a number of key elements in the ICER invention of the 12-month JAK Inhibitor imaginary world. While this does not imply any degree of acceptance of the ICER methodology, one element that merits particular attention is the failure of the ICER modeling to meet logically defensible measurement standards in its application of generic health related quality of life (HRQoL) ordinal metrics to create its QALY claims. The failure to meet the required standards of fundamental measurement means that the cost-per-QALY claims are invalid. This raises the issue of the application of Rasch Measurement Theory (RMT) in instrument development and the potential role of patient centric outcome (PCO) instruments that represent the patient voice in value claims. The case made here is that the ICER approach should be abandoned as an unnecessary distraction. If we are to meet standards for the discovery of new facts in therapy response then our focus must be on proposing credible, evaluable and replicable claims within disease states. Instruments, such as the Rheumatoid Arthritis Quality of Life (RAQoL) questionnaire that build on the common construct that QoL is the extent to which human needs are fulfilled should be the basis for value claims.  HRQoL Instruments that are clinically focused and reflect the value calculus of providers and not patients in measuring response by symptoms and activity limitations are irrelevant.   This puts to one side the belief that incremental cost-per-QALY models, the construction of imaginary worlds are, in any sense, a ‘gold standard’; a meme embraced by the health technology assessment profession. Claims for incremental cost per QALY outcomes and recommendations for pricing and access driven by willingness to pay thresholds are irrelevant to formulary decisions.


Article Type: Commentary


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Received 2019-11-27
Published 2020-01-24
Formulary Evaluations