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Centers for Education and Research on Therapeutics help promote use of life-saving therapies and avoidance of high-risk therapies

The Centers for Education and Research on Therapeutics (CERTs) program, administered by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality in close collaboration with the Food and Drug Administration, is described in a recent article by Lynn A. Bosco, M.D., M.P.H., of AHRQ, and her colleagues. The CERTs mission is to conduct research and provide education that will advance the optimal use of drugs, medical devices, and biological products.

The seven CERTs aim to develop knowledge about therapies and how best to use them; manage risk by improving the ability to measure both beneficial and harmful effects of therapies as used in practice; improve practice by advancing strategies to ensure that therapies are used always and only when they should be; and inform policies by describing the state of clinical science and the effects of current and proposed policies.

There currently are 98 ongoing CERTs research and education projects on topics ranging from anti-infectives, cardiovascular diseases, musculoskeletal diseases, and drug interactions to improving therapy in managed care organizations. Two CERTS projects from the Duke University Medical Center are typical of the program; they focus on assuring use of life-saving therapies and avoiding misuse of high-risk therapies for patients with cardiovascular disease.

The goal of one project is to increase the use of lifesaving beta-blockers in appropriate congestive heart failure (CHF) patients via a fact sheet for health care professionals that summarizes data on beta-blockers for treatment of CHF, a toll-free hotline for questions, and an educational brochure for patients. Results from this study will demonstrate whether this is an effective intervention. Another project is evaluating the impact of a physician education program on appropriate prescribing of a new drug, dofetilide, which is used to treat atrial fibrillation.

If warnings and dosage instructions are not heeded, the drug can cause a potentially life-threatening ventricular arrhythmia. The Center is working closely with the FDA to provide feedback on its findings.

See "Centers for Education and Research on Therapeutics (CERTs)," by Judith M. Kramer, M.D., M.S., Dr. Bosco, and Robert M. Califf, M.D., in the Drug Information Journal 36, pp. 717-723, 2002.

Reprints (AHRQ Publication No. 03-R013) are available from the AHRQ Publications Clearinghouse.

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