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AHRQ Launches New "Effective Health Care Program" To Compare Medical Treatments and Help Put Proven Treatments into Practice

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Press Release Date: September 29, 2005

HHS' Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality today launched its new Effective Health Care Program to help clinicians and patients determine which drugs and other medical treatments work best for certain health conditions. Thirteen new research centers, as well as an innovative center for communicating findings, were named as part of the three-part program.

"There is more we must learn about what really works most effectively and safely for our patients, especially for some of the most widespread and costly health conditions," said HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt. "This new Effective Health Care Program will substantially expand our Department's capacity to develop this crucial information and convey the findings clearly so that they can be put into practice quickly."

The $15 million program will support the development of new scientific information through research on the outcomes of health care services and therapies, including drugs. By reviewing and synthesizing published and unpublished scientific studies, as well as identifying important issues where existing evidence is insufficient, the program will help provide clinicians and patients with better information for making treatment decisions. Initial reports from the new program will be issued this fall, with particular focus on effectiveness information relevant to Medicare beneficiaries. A new Web site for the program,, was also announced today.

The new program includes three components:

  1. Comparative Effectiveness Reviews—The program builds on existing network of 13 Evidence-based Practice Centers. In the new program, the EPCs will focus especially on comparing the relative effectiveness of different treatments, including drugs, as well as identifying gaps in knowledge where new research is needed. Ten studies for the new program were initiated by EPCs earlier this year, and reports will be issued over the coming months.
  2. Network of Research Centers—A new network of 13 Developing Evidence to Inform Decisions about Effectiveness research centers (referred to as DEcIDE) will carry out accelerated studies, including research aimed at filling knowledge gaps about treatment effectiveness. Operating under strict procedures to guarantee privacy and security, DEcIDE centers will use de-identified data available through insurers, health plans and other partner organizations to answer questions about the use, benefits and risks of medications and other therapies. Collectively, the DEcIDE centers will have access to de-identified medical data for millions of patients, including Medicare's 42 million beneficiaries. DEcIDE centers will begin work on 15 research projects immediately.
  3. Making Findings Clear for Different Audiences—A new Clinical Decisions and Communications Science Center was also announced today, to be called the Eisenberg Center in honor of the late AHRQ director, John M. Eisenberg, M.D. This innovative effort is aimed at improving communication of findings to a variety of audiences, including consumers, clinicians, payers, and health care policy makers. The center will translate findings in ways appropriate for the needs of the different stakeholders. It also will conduct its own program of research into effective communication of research findings, in order to improve usability and rapid incorporation of findings into medical practice.

"This three-part program creates a new engine for generating and customizing effectiveness information to assure that current evidence on treatment is known and used," said AHRQ Director Carolyn M. Clancy, M.D. "This is a dynamic process that will give us more effectiveness data, develop new information faster and more strategically, and deliver it in more useful forms. In the long run, it also will help us develop common standards and methodologies that can improve all effectiveness research."

"The new effort will benefit from the growth of health information technology", Dr. Clancy said. "As more patient data come to exist in digital form, the data will be increasingly available to researchers in electronic formats that can be used to quickly measure health outcomes, detect adverse reactions, and target appropriate treatments to the individual patient."

The new program was authorized under Section 1013 of the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003. An initial set of 10 priority conditions of special importance for Medicare was announced last December, including ischemic heart disease, cancer, stroke, arthritis and others. Specific topics for review by EPCs were named in June, with choices based on extensive public input. A hallmark of the program will be the transparency of the data and processes used to arrive at findings.

"As the Medicare program moves toward the launch of its new drug benefit next year, it will be increasingly important to have sound information about which drugs and other treatments are proven to be effective for the conditions that are most important for our beneficiaries," said Mark B. McClellan, M.D., administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. "We welcome our partnership with AHRQ in developing this information and seeing it put into practice."

Additional priority areas for the program will be identified next year, to include the needs of CMS' Medicaid and State Children's Health Insurance Programs, as well as Medicare. Public comments are already being solicited for the additional set of priority conditions.

Assisting AHRQ in carrying out the new program is a technical Resource Center, directed by the Oregon Health & Science University, Department of Medical Informatics and Clinical Epidemiology, Portland, OR. The director of the center is Mark Helfand, M.D.

DEcIDE Network

The 13 entities named by AHRQ to receive contracts as DEcIDE research centers and their principal investigators, are:

  • Acumen, LLC, Burlingame, CA; Thomas E. MaCurdy, Ph.D.
  • Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston; Sebastian Schneeweiss, M.D.
  • Duke University, Durham, NC; David B. Matchar, M.D.
  • Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, Harvard Medical School, Boston; Richard Platt, M.D.
  • Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore; Albert W. Wu, M.D.
  • Outcome Sciences, Cambridge, MA; Richard E. Gliklich, M.D.
  • RTI International, Research Triangle Park, NC; Kathleen Lohr, Ph.D.
  • University of Colorado at Denver and Health Sciences Center, Aurora, CO; John F. Steiner, M.D.
  • University of Illinois at Chicago; Glen T. Schumock, Pharm.D.
  • University of Maryland at Baltimore; Bruce C. Stuart, Ph.D.
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Suzanne L. West, Ph.D.
  • University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia; Brian L. Strom, M.D.
  • Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, TN; Marie R. Griffin, M.D.

Eisenberg Center

The new John M. Eisenberg Clinical Decisions and Communications Science Center will be directed by the Oregon Health & Science University, Department of Medicine, Portland, OR. The director of the center is David H. Hickman, M.D.

The Effective Health Care Program website includes a LISTSERV®, enabling users to be notified of new reports and findings, as well as other features.

For more information, please contact AHRQ Public Affairs: (301) 427-1922 or (301) 427-1855.


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