Women’s, Minority Groups Raise Concern Over ‘Comparative Effectiveness’ Provision in Stimulus Bill
The $787 billion economic stimulus package that Congress approved last week includes $1.1 billion for research comparing the effectiveness of different treatments for the same illness, a measure critics say could compromise treatment for women and minorities, the New York Times reports. President Obama is expected to sign the package into law today.
A 15-member committee would coordinate the research and advise Obama and Congress on how to allocate the money, which would be available through HHS and could be spent over several years. Researchers would use the funding to compare medical devices, surgery, drugs and other methods of treating specific conditions.
The program is designed to address increasing health care spending and concerns about a lack of solid evidence of many treatments' effectiveness, the Times reports. In a report, the House Appropriations Committee said the research could "yield significant payoffs" because more costly treatments that prove to be less effective "will no longer be prescribed."
Some women's and minority groups have expressed concern over the approach, claiming that treatments can affect different patients in different ways. They say researchers often overlook such differences because women, blacks and Hispanics are not fairly represented in clinical trials. In a letter to House leaders, the Congressional Black Caucus said, "We are concerned that comparative effectiveness research will be based on broad population averages that ignore the differences between patients."
House and Senate lawmakers tried to address the concerns by inserting language in the final bill requiring women and ethnic minorities to be included in research the federal government finances, according to the Times (Pear, New York Times, 2/16).