The FDA certifies the drug won’t hurt you, not that it will help you.
To discover which drugs, diagnostic tests as well as surgical and therapeutic procedures work, and under what circumstances, we must rely on the people that sell them, and on the experience of the docs who use them.
Obviously, that information could be incomplete or biased. And, even if it isn’t, it might take a long time to gather, sort and distribute.
So, at the advice of all kinds of high-level medical think tanks in place for many years, the Obama administration added a provision to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, to set up a mechanism to fund research examining all kinds of public records, clinical trials, legal records and other information. Eventually, we should have evidence that will lead to lists of what works and what doesn’t, under a variety of circumstances.
A daunting task, to be sure.
Nobody believes such information will be available soon. But, the government will take it one step at a time. From my own research on the subject, most doctors welcome the program.
Obviously this will be a long-term research project but it’s built on a program begun in 1989 by President George H.W. Bush, to give you an idea of how long this concept has been kicked around. It’s not new, nor is it unique to the US. Other countries have had similar programs in place for years.
Although in its infancy, the very concept of comparative effectiveness research has added fuel to the fire on talk radio, giving the likes of Rush Limbaugh et al, “proof” health care reform will limit care!
When you think about it, doesn’t the word reform mean re + form, implying change?
The hundreds of health care experts (including representatives from many related industries) who wrote the legislation, as well as the Congress that passed it, must believe this particular change will be for the better.
For an explainer on the pros and cons of comparative effectiveness research (CER), click here to read a fairly short story I wrote recently for Progress Magazine, an ezine published by Sigma Xi, the science research society. This piece looks specifically at the concerns of minorities, who, to be sure, do not want to be left out of any studies. To make sure they’re included, Congress included a special provision into the final draft of the bill that was enacted into law on February 17, 2009. Stay tuned.