Stimulus Has Funds for Comparing Medical TreatmentsFeb 16, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP
The U.S. economic stimulus plan just approved by Congress has within it a provision to fund a measure that allows for medical treatment efficacy comparison, reported UPI. President Barack Obama is expected to sign the legislation into law tomorrow.
As part of the plan, $1.1 billion is allowed for researchers to compare treatments that include medications and specific surgeries as well as funding to compare medical devices, something which has caused a good deal of controversy, said UPI.
The intent of the research is to show treatment benefits; however, some find treatment comparison could limit options while proponents disagree saying the measure will help lower the costs of certain treatments, reported UPI. Similar plans are in effect in some areas in Europe, it added. The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) notes that the provision is part of the president’s plan to overhaul the health care system and will limit use of ineffective treatments; however, industry is looking to have the provision removed, claiming it is simply an example of governmental rationing.
According to MichaelMoore.com, the stimulus package has the drug and medical device industry worried since the House version of the bill, according to a staff report, said that those treatments found to be lacking in efficacy and some found to be more costly “will not longer be prescribed.” The Senate version does not mention cost; however, final language is pending and should be finalized during a House-Senate conference committee meeting scheduled for later this week, said the WSJ.
Dr. Elliott S. Fisher of Dartmouth Medical School said the research would address questions about what treatments work best in certain conditions, while industry claims the comparisons could lead to coverage denial, said UPI. The National Institutes of Health and other government areas will issue the $1.1 billion in research funding, when approved. "We should focus on producing the best unbiased science possible," Rep. Henry Waxman (Democrat-California), told the WSJ. Waxman is a supporter of the legislation’s language as it is written in the House version.
President Obama has long supported research into comparative effectiveness, bringing it up during his presidential campaign. Administration officials and some key Congressional Democrats in Congress agree with the move, saying such research will better enable the government to ensure money is funneled into worthwhile treatments, reported UPI. Others disagree such as Louisiana Republican Representative Charles Boustany Jr., a cardiac surgeon, who feels that "federal bureaucrats will misuse this research to ration care, to deny life-saving treatments to seniors and disabled people," the Times reported, said UPI.
But California Democrat, Representative Pete Stark, said the research "will eventually save money and lives." Jerry Avorn of Harvard Medical School an a known industry critic agrees saying that the planned comparative research "has the potential to tell us which drugs and treatments are safe, and which ones work. This is not information that the private sector will generate on its own, or that the industry wants to share," reported the WSJ.