Comparative Effectiveness

May 12th, 2009 | Sources: Wall Street Journal

fightingcostescalationEveryone agrees that controlling health care cost escalation is vital to cutting our budget deficit.

The problem is that no one agrees how to do it, and yesterday’s kumbayah press release by key stakeholders certainly hasn’t addressed the issue substantively.

The Big O has already ticked-off Big Insurance by cutting payments to Medicare Advantage plans, and the $1.1 billion he tucked into his Economic Hail Mary for comparative effectiveness research has garnered similarly negative reviews from Big Pharma and the Device Makers.

Obama believes cost-effectiveness research can help physicians reduce wasteful or ineffective treatments, especially if they are reminded about the findings at time they write orders.

This could be done by incorporating reminder systems into those newfangled EMRs he’s incentivizing physicians to adopt.

The Hail Mary allocated $400 million to the National Institutes of Health, $300 million to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, and another $400 million to Health and Human Services.

This amounts to a budget increase, not a policy shift for AHRQ. For example, its 2007 guide to pain medication for osteoarthritis explained how a 30-day supply of Lodine cost $170 whereas the same course of treatment with aspirin cost $10.

And CMS has long-since established the precedent of using AHRQ-sponsored research in reaching coverage decisions for Medicare and Medicaid.

Still, the decision raised red flags for Big Pharma, whose trade group was one of the signees in yesterday’s kumbaya press release, and the device makers as well.

what'satstakeTeresa Lee, a VP at the Advanced Medical Technology Association, warned the Wall Street Journal for example that using “this research to deny access to appropriate treatments for patients with (specific) medical histories and needs should not be the objective.”

And on the Hill, Republican Senator Jon Kyl just missed passing legislation that would have prevented CMS from relying on comparative effectiveness research to deny coverage.

Charles Grassley and Russ Feingold, 2 key actors in health reform legislation, voted for that one.


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