Friday, March 27, 2009

Funding Research on Comparative Effectiveness

From the Wall St. Journal: Coming Soon: Comparative Effectiveness Research for Biotech
Which treatment works best for a given medical condition? The big stimulus package includes $1.1 billion in funding for so-called “comparative-effectiveness” research aimed at answering that question.

Now the NIH has published a list of high-priority projects it wants to fund, providing a clearer picture of just how that money may be spent. The list — online here — suggests scrutiny for some of the best-selling drugs for heart conditions and asthma, among others.

Drugs for auto-immune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis also make the list. The NIH doesn’t name any of the drugs, but four of the biggest are Enbrel (from Amgen and Wyeth), Remicade (J&J and Schering-Plough), Humira (Abbott) and Orencia (Bristol-Myers Squibb).

They cost anywhere from $10,000 to $25,000 per patient per year, and last year combined U.S. sales of these four were about $9 billion. Yet there have been few, if any, head-to-head trials to see which one works best.

Effectiveness — comparative effectiveness — matters, ethically.


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