February 17, 2009
Federal Money for "Comparative Effectiveness" Studies
The New York Times reports that the stimulus bill includes $1.1 billion to fund "comparative effectiveness" research, i.e., comparing the effectiveness of different treatments for the same condition or illness.
Dr. Elliott S. Fisher of Dartmouth Medical School said the federal effort would help researchers try to answer questions like these: Is it better to treat severe neck pain with surgery or a combination of physical therapy, exercise and medications? What is the best combination of “talk therapy” and prescription drugs to treat mild depression? How do drugs and “watchful waiting” compare with surgery as a treatment for leg pain that results from blockage of the arteries in the lower legs? Is it better to treat chronic heart failure by medications alone or by drugs and home monitoring of a patient’s blood pressure and weight?
The U.S. Health and Human Services Department will oversee the funds with a "council of up to 15 federal employees to coordinate the research." According to the Times, "[s]ome money will be used for systematic reviews of published scientific studies, and some will be used for clinical trials making head-to-head comparisons of different treatments." President Obama is expected to sign the bill today.
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