CQ - Comparative Effectiveness Institute Ramps Up Work | Friends of Cancer Research

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CQ - Comparative Effectiveness Institute Ramps Up Work

BY Rebecca Adams

The new nonprofit institute assigned by the health care law to fund comparative effectiveness research gave a sign Friday that it is gearing up

: It announced the members of a key committee that will shape the way the studies will be conducted.

The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) also held its second board meeting Thursday in Los Angeles and made plans for a March 7-8 meeting in St. Louis. Although the organization doesn’t yet have an executive director, chairman Eugene Washington of the University of California at Los Angeles Geffen School of Medicine is busy discussing priorities with board members. PCORI officials are expected to create a list of research priorities and start handing out funding for studies in the coming months.

PCORI was created in the health care law (PL 111-148, PL 111-152) as a way to coordinate research comparing medicines, devices or methods of delivering care for patients to figure out what works best. The federal government has funded comparative effectiveness research for decades, and some government-funded research will continue on a separate track through the National Institutes of Health and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (ARHQ).

But PCORI will serve as a centralized source of funding for comparative studies. Comparative effectiveness studies became somewhat controversial in the health care debate because some critics feared that federal officials at Medicare or other health programs might decide to limit coverage for treatments that are shown in studies to be less effective than alternatives (See related story, CQ Weekly, Aug. 13, 2010).

ARHQ Director Carolyn Clancy, who serves on the PCORI board, acknowledged Friday that there is “lots and lots of apprehension” about comparative studies, including questions about whether the research could somehow inhibit innovation. She argued that “we will actually accelerate the uptake of new innovations” by being able to rapidly identify which patients will benefit most from different types of care.

“Early on in CER, people were talking about winners and losers, and really it’s about precision and how we apply the science,” she told an audience at the Congress on Health Insurance Reform, a conference sponsored by the policy research publication Health Affairs. Studies can help guide physicians who are trying to tailor treatments to individual patients’ needs.

Clancy also said that all of the federally funded efforts to improve quality — whether through PCORI, ARHQ or other entities — will need to be closely coordinated with the private sector. “It can’t be top-down,” she said in an interview after her speech. “It has to be collaborative.”

The 15-member methodology committee will play a key role in determining how studies are conducted. Washington, as chair of the PCORI board, will select the chair of the committee. The new members of the methodology panel are largely physicians, academics, and representatives of groups that conduct comparative effectiveness studies, such as the executive director of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association Technology Evaluation Center.

“These committee members will play a critical role in shaping methodological standards for research, and, with their knowledge and qualifications, the experts who have been appointed to serve on the committee are well-positioned to achieve the committee’s goals,” said Robert Dubois, chief science officer of the National Pharmaceutical Council, whose members include major drug companies. “The work of this group is foundational to achieving PCORI’s mission.”