Mixed opinions over push for comparative effectiveness research

May 26, 2009
Ronald Piana

One of the most discussed elements of President Obama's health-care reform is the the initiative to launch comparative effectiveness research. The administration contends that CER is about enhancing the quality of care by choosing more effective clinical options. Pharma is worried that comparative effectiveness code for cost-effectiveness, and oncologists are concerned that CER could effect the autonomy of their clinical decision making.

The Obama administration has ponied up $1.1 billion to fund its comparative effectiveness research initiative even though many of the players in the health-care debate do not have a full grasp of how CER will move from concept to a working policy.

In an expression of cautious optimism, 25 of the nation's leading cancer organizations, including ASCO, ACS, and AACR, have signed on to an explanatory report by the Friends of Cancer Research that lays out the tenets of the proposed CER initiative and how it might impact oncology.

However, since the passage of the Medicare Modernization Act in 2003, community oncologists have seen more government oversight and less profits in their practices. Naturally, the confusion surrounding the downstream implications that CER might have on oncology draws concern. In a public statement, Al Benson, MD, co-chair of the group that produced the FOCR report, said, "We as oncologists want to be at the table when CER issues are discussed and funded as we think we can have very positive feedback about critical issues."

The FOCR report is posted at www.FOCR.org.