Excellent News!

As you know, one of the themes around here is that cost benefit analyses need to be, well, focussed on both costs and benefits. So this is excellent news indeed:

Tens of thousands of Alzheimer’s sufferers and their families had their hopes raised yesterday as two drug companies won a landmark victory in the Court of Appeal.

The court ruled that the powerful body that controls the prescription of new drugs must give up its most precious secrets — how it measures the benefits that novel treatments bring.

The ruling is the first case that NICE, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, has lost in court. It means that in future it will have to be completely transparent in the way it reaches its decisions, revealing the inner workings of the computer models it uses to measure value for money.

I\’ve no hassle with the basic idea of NICE, nor with the idea of using QUALY (quality adjusted life years) as the measure of value for taxpayers\’ money. And while I wouldn\’t be interested in poking around the details of their economic models myself I do insist that it\’s important that someone does, someone independent.

For we\’ve got a fairly large number of cases, the details of recent decisions, where such cost benefit analyses seems to be disregarded: where, in the details of the argument something is twisted so as to provide the outcome desired rather than the one the evidence really points to.

A non-exhausitive list.

1) The claim that the UK has the largest gender pay gap in Europe. This is reached by using both full time and part time workers: and the UK is structurally different in the number of women who work part time. If we look at full timers only, then the pay gap is below the EU average.

2) Before the EU imposes import restrictions (tarrifs or quotas) it is supposed to provide an estimate of the costs and benefits. Not surprisingly, it only ever provides cost numbers for the benefits to producers: not the costs to consumers.

3) Cannabis reclassification. There has indeed been a rise in psychosis associated with cannabis consumption. However, there\’s been no rise in psychosis as a whole. The cannabis related rise was taken to mean that cannabis was causing the rise: when the lack of a general rise means it is more likely that those becoming psychotic were self-dosing with the more widely available cannabis.

4) Many use the WRAP report on how many squiddely tonnes of CO2 emissions are saved by our current recycling to argue that we should therefore be doing more such. Illogical: it may well be that recycling aluminium cans (as it does) saves both emissions and money. That has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with whether wormeries and their associated worm farts are better or worse for emissions than landfill and methane capture.

No, these aren\’t all about cost benefit analyses. But they are all about much the same point. Unless we can see the details of how an argument, a chain of evidence, is constructed, we cannot have any confidence in the conclusions reached.

Thus the release of NICE\’s full economic model is something to be celebrated.

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