15.6.2  Narrative summary of results

Cochrane reviews may include narrative summaries of the main characteristics and results of included economic studies, including measures of incremental resource use, cost and cost-effectiveness, to supplement and provide a commentary on tabulated results. This can be located in the Results section, alongside narrative summary of the results of effectiveness studies (see Chapter 11, Section 11.7)


The central aim of this narrative summary is to make explicit, for the end-user, the extent to which cost and resource use estimates collected from multiple studies are homogeneous between studies. This can be accomplished by describing differences in methods for assessing, and patterns of, resource use and costs between comparison groups, both within and across included studies, with potential explanations for any inconsistencies in results between studies. As discussed earlier in this chapter, economic evaluation studies are constructed differently and for different purposes (see also Section 15.1.2). This is one factor that may lead to heterogeneity between studies in their methods and results. Where there is heterogeneity between economics studies in their methods or results, drawing attention to these potential sources of statistical heterogeneity can help to summarize the international economics literature in an explicit way that is likely to be useful to the end-users of reviews (Gilbody 1999). It is important to avoid using this section as a form of analysis leading to recommendations regarding cost-effectiveness (see also Section 15.8).


Other features of good practice in a narrative summary of included health economics studies include:


A further option is to provide links to completed NHS EED or other structured abstracts of full economic evaluation studies, if available. NHS EED structured abstracts include information on both the characteristics and results of full health economic evaluations (see also Section 15.3.2). Some systematic reviews include NHS EED abstracts of included full economic evaluations in an appendix, as well as a narrative summary of the abstracts in the main text of the review (Rodgers 2006, Fayter 2007).