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AHRQ Expands Therapeutics Education and Research Network To Focus on Critical Issues Facing the Health Care System

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Press Release Date: April 19, 2006

HHS' Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality today announced the award of $16 million over the next 5 years to establish four new Centers for Education and Research on Therapeutics (CERTs) to increase awareness of the benefits and risks of therapeutic products, including prescription medicines, biological products and medical devices, and translate research findings into improved health care.

The four new AHRQ-funded CERTs are located at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey in New Brunswick; the University of Iowa in Iowa City; Baylor College of Medicine in Houston; and Weill Medical College of Cornell University in New York City. The 5-year cooperative agreement grants expand the existing CERTs network from seven to 11 AHRQ-funded centers and one coordinating center. Each center will work collaboratively with AHRQ and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to conduct research and provide education that advances the optimal use of medications, medical devices, and biologic products.

"AHRQ's CERTs program has worked to inform the health care system about which therapeutic products and interventions work best, under which conditions, and for which patients," said AHRQ Director Carolyn M. Clancy, M.D. "By focusing on mental health, medical devices, medication use in the elderly, and improving medication adherence, AHRQ's four new centers will provide a wider range of knowledge to help the health care system make measurable improvements in the quality and safety of health care. Establishing these centers is more important than ever with the recent expansion of Medicare to include a new prescription drug benefit."

The CERTs program, which AHRQ administers in partnership with the FDA, was authorized by Congress in 1997 to examine the benefits, risks and cost-effectiveness of therapeutic products; educate patients, consumers, doctors, pharmacists and other clinical personnel; and improve quality of care while reducing needless costs, such as by increasing appropriate use of therapeutics and preventing adverse effects and their consequences.

The Rutgers CERT will work on improving the safe and effective use of treatments for mental health problems. The center will initially develop research and education programs to improve appropriate antidepressant and antipsychotic use in children and adolescents, including balancing the risks and benefits of childhood antipsychotic use; psychotropic drug use among adults and the frail elderly, including those in nursing homes; and improving the quality and outcomes of pharmaceutical care under the Medicare Prescription Drug Improvement and Modernization Act for beneficiaries with mental illnesses.

The University of Iowa CERT will focus on improving the safety and effectiveness of medication use among the elderly. Its activities will include identifying and resolving medication problems in the elderly; examining age disparities in chemotherapy treatments; studying age-related changes in patient decision-making and their effect on health outcomes; and testing a model program for physician-pharmacist teams to manage hypertensive patients, with particular attention to barriers to achieving and sustaining blood pressure control among the elderly.

The Baylor College of Medicine CERT will focus on consumers and strategies to help patients take prescription medications appropriately. The center will initially focus on health communication with English- and Spanish-speaking patients, including key areas such as consumer health education, clinician-patient interactions, health care decision-making, and patient adherence to therapeutic recommendations. A central part of its activities will be the creation of a Consumer Health Advisory Information Network to deploy a system for rapid response to emerging therapeutic issues posing risks to the public (e.g., drug interactions or toxicities) or requiring enhanced dissemination to achieve maximal benefit (e.g., rapid implementation of evidence-based therapeutic guidelines).

The Weill Medical College of Cornell University CERT will focus on medical devices. As part of its program, the Cornell CERT will help clinicians, regulators, and payers make decisions about how best to use prosthetic orthopedic devices, including total hip, total knee, and shoulder replacement. In addition, the CERT will apply the tools of outcomes research, technology assessment, and medical economics to evaluate other medical devices and develop strategies for providing timely evidence to informing patients and consumers, as well as clinicians and others.

Each of the new CERTs will also work in coordination with the other CERTs, AHRQ and FDA as part of a comprehensive research and education network. The other seven AHRQ-funded CERTs and their areas of concentration are: Duke University (therapies for disorders of the heart and blood vessels); HMO Research Network (drug use, safety, and effectiveness in managed care); University of Alabama at Birmingham (therapies for disorders of the joints and bones); University of Arizona (drug interactions, particularly in women); University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (therapies for children and adolescents); University of Pennsylvania (therapies for infectious diseases); and Vanderbilt University (prescription drug use in vulnerable populations). Total AHRQ funding for the CERTs program, including the new and existing CERTs and the Coordinating Center, in fiscal year 2006 is approximately $9.2 million. More information on the CERTs and their activities is available at http://www.ahrq.gov

For more information, please contact AHRQ Public Affairs: (301) 427-1539 or (301) 427-1855.


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