government

Comparative effectiveness research panel made up mostly of doctors

The advisory group, created by the health reform law, is barred from releasing practice guidelines or coverage recommendations.

By — Posted Oct. 5, 2010

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Physicians comprise the majority of a new 21-member panel that will guide federal efforts to compare how effective different treatments, devices and drugs are on a particular condition or disease.

The nonprofit Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, created by the national system health reform law, will have at least 11 physicians. Acting U.S. Comptroller General Gene L. Dodaro announced his appointments for 19 board members on Sept. 23. The remaining two slots will be occupied by the head of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and the director of the National Institutes of Health, or others that they designate.

PCORI members will have to earn the trust of critics of comparative effectiveness research. Some nonsupporters worry that such studies will lead the government and private insurance companies to favor treatments that benefit a majority of people with a disease or condition, while subpopulations are disadvantaged.

"The members of the PCORI board have an essential role in establishing a new program of research that is patient-centered, sustained and credible," said Tony Coelho, chair of the Partnership to Improve Patient Care, a group of health care organizations that supports comparative effectiveness research.

The national health reform law created PCORI to advise federal agencies on comparative effectiveness research and on funding research. PCORI also will set guidelines for such research and release results to the public. But the panel is prohibited from releasing practice guidelines or coverage recommendations.

Among the areas in which the newly named PCORI members have backgrounds: academia, business, medicine, the pharmaceutical industry and public health. Among the physician members: three internists, a psychiatrist, an obstetrician-gynecologist, a vascular surgeon and four cardiologists. Seven of the 19 commissioners will serve until 2016, six more until 2014, and the remaining six until 2012. Each is eligible to be reappointed for a six-year term. The list of PCORI board members is available online (link).

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