Brouwer and colleagues [1] argue that the reasons for specifying an equal discount rate for health outcomes and costs in the recent guidance on methods of technology appraisal issued by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) [2] is both opaque and wrong. They argue that a lower rate should apply to health outcomes like QALYs. It is also claimed that the guidance on discounting represents a step backwards, that is both inconsistent with current theoretical insights and will prejudice the outcome of cost-effectiveness studies of preventive interventions.

The reasoning behind the use of equal discount rates for costs and health outcomes is indeed not well developed in the published guidance. Nor does it reflect the debate that underpinned the guidance. We therefore welcome the opportunity to explain more completely the rationale in the minds of the principal authors of the current guidance. Copyright © 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.