BACKGROUND: Little is known about the quality, quantity and disease areas analysed by health economic research that inform healthcare decision-making in Central America. This study aimed to review the existing health economic evaluations (HEEs) and budget impact analyses (BIAs) evidence in Central America based on scope and reporting quality.
METHODS: HEEs and BIAs published from 2000 to April 2021 were searched in five electronic databases: PubMed, Embase, LILACS (Latin American and Caribbean Health Science Literature), EconLIT and OVID Global Health. Two reviewers assessed titles, abstracts and full texts of studies for eligibility. The quality appraisal for the reporting was based on La Torre and colleagues' version of the Drummond checklist and the ISPOR good practices for BIA. For each country, we correlated the number of studies by disease area with their respective burden of disease to identify under-researched health areas.
RESULTS: 102 publications were eligible for this review. Ninety-four publications reported a HEE, six publications reported a BIA, and two studies reported both a HEE and a BIA. Costa Rica had the highest number of publications (n = 28, 27.5%), followed by Guatemala (n = 25, 24.5%). Cancer and respiratory infections were the most common types of disease studied. Diabetes mellitus, chronic kidney diseases, and mental disorders were under-researched relative to their disease burden in most of the countries. The overall mean quality reporting score for HEE and BIA studies were 71/119 points (60%) and 7/10 points (70%), respectively; however, these assessments were made on different scales.
CONCLUSION: In Central America, health economic research is sparse and is considered as suboptimal quality for reporting. The findings reported information useful to other low- and middle-income countries with similar advances in the application of economics to promote health policy decision-making.