Wednesday, 27 August 2014


Next week I'm off to the RSS conference in Sheffield, where I'll present our work on the Eurovision contest. I'm quite excited about going back to Sheffield, where some time in the last century, I've spent a semester as an Erasmus Exchange student. In fact, this will be the first time I'm back since then $-$ I've spoken with a few friends who tell me that the city has changed so much in the last few years, so I'm curious to see what I'll make of it. 

 I have fond memories of my experience and I'm very glad I've taken that opportunity (although at the time the exchange rate between Italian Lire and the Pound was 2 million to 1...). In particular, I'm glad I got to be at one of the last editions of the Pyjama Jump!   

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Workshop on Efficient Methods for Value of Information

Nicky Welton has invited me to talk at a very interesting workshop, which she has organised at the University of Bristol (here's a flyer). The day will be about the recent (and current) development of methods to perform calculations of the expected value of information, particularly for specific parameters (EVPPI).

This is something that is extremely relevant in health economic evaluation and I've already implemented a couple of possible methods in BCEA (in fact, we're writing more on this in the BCEA book $-$ we're running a little late on the original timeline, but it's looking good and I'll post more on this, later).

At the workshop, Chris Jackson and I will give a joint talk to describe how the different methods can be integrated in a single, general framework. We'll also have a new PhD student who will start working in September on fully Bayesian extension of Gaussian Processes approximations to the net benefit. Pretty exciting stuff (if you're easily excited by these kind of things, that is...).

Thursday, 14 August 2014

(Some) Spaces available

Requests for registration to our short course on Bayesian methods in Health Economics are coming in steadily $-$ in fact, we had started advertising quite in advance (the course is in November), but we're nearly booked up.

We set a total of 30 participants, so hurry up if you're interested! 

Monday, 11 August 2014

Two weights and two measures?

This is an interesting story about the Meningitis B vaccine (some additional background here and here). In a nutshell, the main issue is that vaccines are subject to a slightly different regulation than other "normal" drugs. For example, patents do not really apply to vaccines (I believe the argument is that the composition is so difficult to set up that in effect there is no point in patenting it $-$ although there may be more to this...).

More to the point, unlike "normal" drugs or health interventions, the economic evaluation of vaccines in the UK is within the remit of a special body, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), rather than NICE

On the one hand, this is perfectly reasonable, as, arguably, vaccines do have some specific characteristics that make modelling and evaluation slightly more complex $-$ for example, vaccination is usually associated with phenomena such as herd immunity (the more people are vaccinated, the more people are directly or indirectly protected). While it is essential to include these dynamic aspects in modelling, it also makes for more complicated mathematical/statistical structures.

On the other hand, however, this raises the question as to whether it makes sense at all to try and evaluate these very special interventions using the same yardstick used for the others (eg cost-utility/effectiveness analysis). Or whether the thresholds for cost-effectiveness should be the same $-$ after all, infectious diseases may have incredible burden during epidemics and so, arguably, effective interventions may be worth extra money than the usual £20-30,000 per QALY.

There are all sort of related issues (some of which perhaps more of a political nature, for example in terms of the overall evaluation process, in direct comparison to what NICE do) $-$ I think I'll discuss them some more at a later stage. But this is interesting nonetheless, also from a technical point of view. 

In my opinion, the point is that, all the more for infectious diseases, to continuously re-assess the evidence and its implications for modelling is absolutely fundamental. Techniques such as the value of information (some discussed and available in BCEA) should be used more widely. And both regulators and industry should be open to this sort of step-wise approach to marketing.