Comparative Effectiveness Research In Reform Legislation Seeks To Control Health Costs

Bloomberg BusinessWeek: Within the health bill is an element that "has generated far less attention and political heat than other parts of the White House's plan to expand medical coverage to 32 million uninsured Americans. The measure requires the U.S. to put aside $500 million or more a year for something called 'comparative effectiveness research,' an ungainly name for a process Obama hopes will reduce costs. The studies, designed to show which drugs, devices, and medical treatments work best, could have an enormous impact on the delivery of health care in the years ahead, scrutinizing everything from cholesterol drugs and heart stents to hospital procedures.

"By using statistics-driven research methods, its backers say, comparative effectiveness promises to bring scientific rigor to medical decision-making that is too often influenced by tradition and marketing" (Nussbaum, Tirrell, Wechsler and Randall, 3/24). 

Bloomberg BusinessWeek, in a separate article: "Comparative effectiveness will probably be 'a headwind for the health-care industry,' Boston-based analyst [John Sullivan] said in a March 23 phone interview. 'If research shows that less complex and maybe less expensive products and therapies work just as well, that is not good news' for the companies."

"The health bill's funding builds upon $1.1 billion approved by Congress last year for effectiveness research. The new legislation creates a nonprofit Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute and tasks it with setting a national agenda for the studies, as well as providing more money and disseminating results. The institute will be run by a 19-member board of governors with three representatives of drug, device and diagnostic- testing companies as well as patient advocates, doctors and the National Institutes of Health. The U.S. Comptroller General, a presidential appointee, must name the board within six months" (Nussbaum, Tirrell, and Wechsler, 3/25).

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