Comparative Effectiveness Research troubles

The idea of comparative effectiveness studies is quite straight forward. Take the treatments for a specific condition such of age-related macular degeneration and create a study which results in answering which treatment is better.

Unfortunately, theory and practice are radically different activities. Here is an article from NPR that highlights the problem of funding. It appears that the U.S. has become so dependent on the pharmaceutical industry providing the money for drug research that we are having trouble figuring out how to do it without the industry.

from NPR by Julie Rovner

Intermediate age-related macular degenerationNational Eye Institute/Wikimedia Commons

The mottled pattern in this picture indicates age-related macular degeneration.

A few years back the government funded a clinical study of two drugs — one very expensive and the other not so much — to treat a leading cause of blindness. But the problems along the way should give everyone pause about how hard it will really be to figure out which medicines and treatments are better values, the idea behind so-calledcomparative effectiveness research.

At issue are two treatments for age-related macular degeneration. In 2005, the FDA approved Genentech’s Lucentis,a modified cancer drug, as the first-ever treatment for so-called wet AMD. The big downside? It costs $2,000 for a monthly dose.

Almost immediately, opthalmologists began using Avastin, the original cancer drug also from Genentech, which wasn’t approved for macular degeneration, instead. It cost only $50 per dose, and doctors who used it said it appeared to work just as well.

With the obvious need for a head-to-head comparison, particularly since 95 percent of wet AMD patients are on Medicare and thus treated at taxpayer expense, the National Eye Institute approved funding of a clinical study, called CATT for short, in 2006…

more via Future Looks Blurry For Comparative Effectiveness Research

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