New report recommends 100 health topics that should get top priority

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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Consumer involvement critical in priortizing comparative effectiveness research, CU President says

Jim Guest on Institute of Medicine panel recommending 100 health topics that should get top priority

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) — Consumers Union President and CEO Jim Guest is a member of the Institute of Medicine (IOM) committee that wrote today’s report that recommends 100 health topics that should get priority attention and funding from a new national effort to identify which healthcare services work best.

The IOM committee developed the list of priority topics at the request of Congress as part of a $1.1 billion effort to improve the quality and efficiency of healthcare through comparative effectiveness research outlined in the stimulus package approved last February.

Comparative effectiveness is a term used for the comparison of two or more treatments for a given condition. Studies may compare similar treatments, such as two drugs, or it may analyze very different approaches, such as surgery and drug therapy. Consumers Union has long advocated for comparative effectiveness research as a way to yield greater value from America’s healthcare system and better outcomes for patients. The IOM report lays the groundwork for an ongoing effort to provide the research that doctors and patients need to make informed decisions.

“When it comes to questions about whether one test, procedure, drug, or treatment is better than another, there’s often very little comparative research,” Guest said following the release of the committee’s report. “That’s partly because pharmaceutical companies, which fund a lot of the medical research, are focused on developing new drugs they can sell, and they lack motivation to actually compare different treatments since their own product might lose the race.

“New treatments and drugs are heavily promoted to doctors and patients, but sometimes they’re no better, or even worse, than older ones, which are neglected because no one’s making much money selling them anymore. Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs, which is based on comparative effectiveness research, has turned up many examples of this,” Guest added.

“The IOM report calls for substantial involvement of consumers, patients, and caregivers in all aspects of comparative effectiveness research, from setting priorities to participating in oversight boards to helping make sure that results are described in a way that consumers can easily understand. I hope that raises the bar in the future, and sets a precedent for substantial consumer involvement in government and private sector health research. I was especially pleased with the reference to the IOM’s recent report on conflict of interest in medicine, because I think it’s essential to minimize any conflicts of interest among those doing comparative effectiveness research.”

Click here to read the IOM report.

For more on Jim Guest’s take on the IOM report, go to Consumer Reports Health’s blog.

Media Contacts:
David Butler, 202-462-6262, Dbutler@consumer.org

Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports, is an independent, nonprofit testing and information organization serving the consumer. We are a comprehensive source of unbiased advice about products and services, personal finance, health, nutrition, and other consumer concerns. Since 1936, our mission has been to test products, inform the public, and protect consumers.