HHS Names Panel of 15 Experts To Advise Government on Spending for Comparative Effectiveness ResearchHHS on Thursday named 15 members to a panel that will advise the government on how to spend the $1.1 billion in federal stimulus funding dedicated to comparing the effectiveness of medical treatments, Reuters/Boston Globe reports. The stimulus package, signed into law by President Obama last month, includes $300 million for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, $400 million for NIH and $400 million for HHS to support comparative effectiveness research. The panel, called the Federal Coordinating Council for Comparative Effectiveness Research, includes officials from NIH, CDC, CMS, FDA, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Defense and the Office of Management and Budget.
AHRQ Director Carolyn Clancy said, "The council will offer advice and recommendations on research priorities and will not recommend clinical guidelines." This research will aim to provide doctors with information on how different treatments work, according to Clancy. She said, "This is the kind of information that, as a physician, I can tell you is too often lacking when physicians and patients are making decisions together" (Fox, Reuters/Boston Globe, 3/19). Clancy said the panel will hold its first public meeting on April 14 and "will be working to get the money out and invested as expeditiously as possible" (Yoest, Wall Street Journal, 3/19).
One member of the panel, HHS senior adviser Neera Tanden, will represent the interests of minorities and people with disabilities (Reichard, CQ HealthBeat, 3/19). Tanden said, "We've been very mindful of ensuring that ideas and views of particular subpopulations will be represented," adding, "It's very important to us that we ensure that people recognize that views of different groups are part of this." HHS Deputy Assistant Secretary for Minority Health Garth Graham also is a member of the panel (Wall Street Journal, 3/19).
Opponents of the comparative effectiveness efforts say it could lead to "rationing of care," Reuters/Globe reports. Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said that he does not oppose "clinical" studies on the effectiveness of different treatments, but that language in the House version of the stimulus legislation suggested that the data gathered from comparative effectiveness research could be used to deny coverage for certain treatments (Reuters/Boston Globe, 3/19). House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee ranking member Wally Herger (R-Calif.) in a statement on Thursday said that "this is yet another incremental move by supporters of government-run health care to take medical decisions out of the hands of doctors and patients and put them in the hands of bureaucrats." Herger also said he would introduce legislation to "ensure that patients are protected" (CQ HealthBeat, 3/19).
Clancy in response said, "It is extremely unusual" for such research to lead to coverage being denied, adding, "I don't think we ever had a report that found one intervention was great and another not useful" (Reuters/Boston Globe, 3/19).
Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America Senior Vice President Ken Johnson said, "The economic stimulus law made an important footprint in the health care debate by providing significant funds" for this research. He added, "As the administration continues to implement this initiative, we expect it will be done with transparency, openness, accountability and public input in how research priorities are set" (CQ HealthBeat, 3/19).