Author(s): Jeff Gow 1 2 , Michael Strauss 1 , Alan Whiteside 1
(1) grid.16463.36, 0000000107234123, Westville Campus, J block, Level 4, Health Economics and HIV/AIDS Research Division, University of KwaZulu-Natal, , 4041, Durban, South Africa
(2) grid.1048.d, 0000000404730844, School of Accounting, Economics and Finance, University of Southern Queensland, , Toowoomba, QLD, Australia
As active researchers in the field of health economics in South Africa, we believe the content and title of the recent PharmacoEconomics article "The state of health economic research in South Africa: a systematic review"  to be misleading. It greatly overstates what it actually achieves and is a misuse of the methodology of systematic reviews.
At best, this review is a subjective analysis of the quality of some cost and cost-effectiveness studies conducted within the field of health economics. While we do not dispute the results, the article fails to adequately review what is actually happening in this field in South Africa. At the outset of this critique, we acknowledge there are limitations in the methodology of systematic reviews. However, these limitations are not adequately discussed and other key issues have been overlooked. The title leads the reader to believe a thorough review of health economic research in South Africa will be contained in the article. This misrepresentation is partly a limitation of the methodology, but mostly, we believe, a weakness of the article itself.
The search parameters defined in the paper, ".. terms and text words alone and in combination: 'costs', 'health' and 'South Africa'" , are narrow and at odds with the title. The field of health economics is broader than "cost studies and cost-effectiveness studies" . An article promising a review of the state of health economics in South Africa should, at the very least, include the word 'economic' or 'economics' in the search parameters.
It is unclear why articles "not unique to South Africa"  have been excluded. These studies still shed light on the state of health economics here. There is no discussion about why these articles have been omitted. The criteria used by the authors for articles in their review seem arbitrary and subjective.
Books are excluded from the analysis. This is a problem for an article that promises a review of the state of health economics in South Africa. Although it is generally accepted that systematic reviews need not include published books, we are aware of many that are relevant and important in a review of health economic research in South Africa. The exclusion of books is a weakness of this review that has not been adequately discussed.
A quick Google search of...