Dear Policymaker: Have you made up your mind?
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Objectives: To get insight in what criteria as presented in Health Technology Assessment (HTA) studies are important for decision makers in health care priority setting. Methods: We performed a discrete choice experiment (DCE) among Dutch health care professionals (policymakers, HTA experts, advanced HTA students). In 27 choice sets, we asked respondents to elect reimbursement of one of two different health care interventions, which represented unlabeled, curative treatments. Both treatments were incrementally compared to usual care. The results of the interventions were normal outputs of HTA studies with a societal perspective. Results were analysed using a multinomial logistic regression model. Upon completion of the questionnaire we discussed the exercise with policymakers. Results: Severity of disease, costs per QALY gained, individual health gain, and the budget impact were the most decisive decision criteria. A program targeting more severe diseases increased the probability of reimbursement dramatically. Uncertainty related to cost-effectiveness was also important. Respondents preferred health gains that include quality of life improvements over extension of life without improved quality of life. Savings in productivity costs were not crucial in decision making, although these are to be included in Dutch reimbursement dossiers for new drugs. Regarding subgroups, we found that policymakers attached relatively more weight to disease severity than others but less to uncertainty. Conclusions: Dutch policymakers and other health care professionals seem to have reasonably well articulated preferences: six of seven attributes were significant. Disease severity, budget impact, and cost-effectiveness were very important. The results are comparable to international studies, but reveal a larger set of important decision criteria.