Moving Forward with Comparative Effectiveness Research
Advancements in biomedical science and technology have led to the development of many new diagnostic tests, drugs and devices—greatly expanding the treatment options available to patients. Less has been done to directly compare the effectiveness of such treatments, making it increasingly difficult for physicians and other providers to determine which therapeutic approaches will work best for which patients. Comparative effectiveness research, an endeavor that is supported by substantial funding from the federal government, aims to do just that. Applied appropriately, it could improve quality of care and health outcomes. However, pharmaceutical and medical device companies, as well as some physician and patient groups, have expressed concerns that such research might focus on the best clinical approach for populations and thus not benefit individual patients with unique health needs, and that it might restrict the treatment options available to patients. Further, there are fears that it could stifle medical innovation. But both international experience with comparative effectiveness research and the more limited experience with it here in the United States suggest that the benefits of more information about the relative clinical benefits of various drugs, devices and treatments outweighs its potential for harm, especially if such evaluations of medical processes and procedures are fair, accurate and transparent.