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Open Access Research article

Clearing up the hazy road from bench to bedside: A framework for integrating the fourth hurdle into translational medicine

Wolf H Rogowski*, Susanne C Hartz and Jürgen H John

Author Affiliations

Helmholtz Zentrum München, German Research Center for Environmental Health, Institute of Health Economics and Health Care Management, PO Box 1129, D-85758 Neuherberg, Germany

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BMC Health Services Research 2008, 8:194  doi:10.1186/1472-6963-8-194

Published: 24 September 2008



New products evolving from research and development can only be translated to medical practice on a large scale if they are reimbursed by third-party payers. Yet the decision processes regarding reimbursement are highly complex and internationally heterogeneous. This study develops a process-oriented framework for monitoring these so-called fourth hurdle procedures in the context of product development from bench to bedside. The framework is suitable both for new drugs and other medical technologies.


The study is based on expert interviews and literature searches, as well as an analysis of 47 websites of coverage decision-makers in England, Germany and the USA.


Eight key steps for monitoring fourth hurdle procedures from a company perspective were determined: entering the scope of a healthcare payer; trigger of decision process; assessment; appraisal; setting level of reimbursement; establishing rules for service provision; formal and informal participation; and publication of the decision and supplementary information. Details are given for the English National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, the German Federal Joint Committee, Medicare's National and Local Coverage Determinations, and for Blue Cross Blue Shield companies.


Coverage determination decisions for new procedures tend to be less formalized than for novel drugs. The analysis of coverage procedures and requirements shows that the proof of patient benefit is essential. Cost-effectiveness is likely to gain importance in future.