Comparative Effectiveness Funds Spur Changes, But Not Without Critics
The new health law will infuse $3 billion into health research that compares treatments to gauge which are most effective, building on an earlier federal investment of $1.1 billion from the stimulus package, Bloomberg BusinessWeek reports. In response to the recent wave of interest in so-called "comparative effectiveness research," Harvard Medical School has hired five new faculty members to study prescription drugs after receiving new grants since July that were nearly three times the normal annual budget for such research. Interest in such research has also spurred UnitedHealth to acquire QualityMetric, Inc., a firm that "measures how patients rate the effectiveness of care" (Tirrell, 4/14).
Despite the growing interest in comparative effectiveness studies, the research is not without controversy. The Iowa Independent reports, at a recent town hall meeting hosted by Sen. Charles Grassley (R), a woman complained that the government planned to establish, as part of the health overhaul, "a special committee that will be 'between every doctor and every patient.'" The committee in question is the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, the group that will oversee comparative-effectiveness research. Grassley responded to the audience member's remarks by suggesting a comparison with a British health institute that he said amounts to government determining "the value of life" (Hancock, 4/13).