A Novel Method to Value Real Options in Health Care: The Case of a Multicohort Human Papillomavirus Vaccination Strategy



      A large number of economic evaluations have already confirmed the cost-effectiveness of different human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination strategies. Standard analyses might not capture the full economic value of novel vaccination programs because the cost-effectiveness paradigm fails to take into account the value of active management. Management decisions can be seen as real options, a term used to refer to the application of option pricing theory to the valuation of investments in nonfinancial assets in which much of the value is attributable to flexibility and learning over time.


      The aim of this article was to discuss the potential advantages shown by using the payoff method in the valuation of the cost-effectiveness of competing HPV immunization programs.


      This was the first study, to the best of our knowledge, to use the payoff method to determine the real option values of 4 different HPV vaccination strategies targeting female subjects aged 12, 15, 18, and 25 years. The payoff method derives the real option value from the triangular payoff distribution of the project's net present value, which is treated as a triangular fuzzy number. To inform the real option model, cost-effectiveness data were derived from an empirically calibrated Bayesian model designed to assess the cost-effectiveness of a multicohort HPV vaccination strategy in the context of the current cervical cancer screening program in Italy. A net health benefit approach was used to calculate the expected fuzzy net present value for each of the 4 vaccination strategies evaluated.


      Costs per quality-adjusted life-year gained seemed to be related to the number of cohorts targeted: a single cohort of girls aged 12 years (€10,955 [95% CI, –1,021 to 28,212]) revealed the lowest cost among the 4 alternative strategies evaluated. The real option valuation challenged the cost-effectiveness dominance of a single cohort of 12-year-old girls. The simultaneous vaccination of 2 cohorts of girls aged 12 and 15 years yielded a real option value (€17,723) equivalent to that attributed to a single cohort of 12-year-old girls (€17,460).


      The payoff method showed distinctive advantages in the valuation of the cost-effectiveness of competing health care interventions, essentially determined by the replacement of the nonfuzzy numbers that are commonly used in cost-effectiveness analysis models, with fuzzy numbers as an input to inform the real option pricing method. The real option approach to value uncertainty makes policy making in health care an evolutionary process and creates a new space for decision-making choices.


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