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The clinical-economic trial is a study design that is appearing with greater frequency in medical and public health literature. Some experienced investigators view these trials with skepticism; to policy makers they represent a promising step in the control of rising health care costs. The success of clinical-economic trials in meeting the important goal of more rational and efficient use of health care resources will depend on the strengths and limitations of the research method. As part of a report to the Office of Technology Assessment of the U.S. Congress on new health care assessment techniques, we describe the reasons why economic data collection and analysis are being considered in clinical trials, identify and discuss various designs and methods for gathering economic trial data, and evaluate the strengths and limitations of different methods for providing sound data for decision making on appropriate use of health care interventions. Because of the potential significance and increasing visibility of such research, experts in research methods should give more attention to methodological research for clinical-economic trials. Future efforts should be directed at comparing different techniques for collecting data, examining the incremental value of precision in economic measurements and ensuring appropriate interpretation of data from clinical-economic trials. © 1995.

Original publication




Journal article


Controlled Clinical Trials

Publication Date





377 - 394