KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Comparative Effectiveness Push Tailed By Controversy, Distrust

Two-third of Americans agree that studies comparing treatments are needed, but even more - 75 percent - say the government and insurers would use the results of such studies to ration medical care, MarketWatch reports. "In light of that public distrust - and angry protests about 'death panels' - Congress included strict rules in the health-reform law stipulating that federally-funded [comparative-effectiveness research] results could not be used by Medicare to set pricing or limit coverage of a service." Yet, "[n]ational public-health experts say CER's potential to improve health-care quality for both patients and doctors outweighs any risks, and federal money is necessary to encourage providers to take part" (Martin, 11/11).

That money is already flowing. The Hospitalist reports today that group "Pediatric Research in Inpatient Settings ... a network of pediatric hospitalists practicing at 150 academic and community hospitals, recently landed two federal stimulus grants totaling $12 million, far outstripping past support for research in the field. … The federal stimulus monies, a pair of three-year grants awarded in September, will fund pediatric inpatient comparative effectiveness research" (Beresford, 11/11).

And, preliminary projects that seek to deliver more consumer tools are also going online. Modern Healthcare reports, "AARP has launched an online tool that will allow consumers to compare prescription drugs based on price, safety and effectiveness." Based on data provided by Consumer Reports, the site allows visitors to "choose any of 500 drugs in ConsumerReportsHealth.org's database. They then receive detailed information on cost and effectiveness, along with 'best buy' recommendations." The site uses a technology platform created by DestinationRx, a company that works with comparative-effectiveness data (McKinney, 11/10).

Meanwhile, an independent panel overseeing the federal comparative effectiveness efforts welcomed a new board member recently: a senior executive at Medtronic, a firm that's worried CER could sink its products, Mass Device reports. The executive, chief scientific officer Richard Kuntz, oversees policy issues, reimbursement, and clinical research for the medical device giant. Medtronic has taken an odd position on the issue: "While publicly supporting the goals of lowering healthcare costs, the company fears CER - the idea that the government should pay only for treatments that compare favorably to other therapies - could shut out certain medical devices." Kuntz joins the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, a nonprofit body formed to put some distance between federal officials and the controversial research program (11/11).

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