U.S. names healthcare spending strategy advisers
The Health and Human Services Department named a panel of 15 experts on Thursday to advise the government on how to spend $1.1 billion set aside to study which medical treatments work best.
The effort is part of President Barack Obama’s plan to cut excess spending from the U.S. health system.
Experts on the panel include officials at the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The $787 billion stimulus package passed in February provides $300 million for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, $400 million for the National Institutes of Health, and $400 million for HHS to support comparative effectiveness research.
HHS took the first step by naming the 15 members of the Federal Coordinating Council for Comparative Effectiveness Research to advise on what to do with the money.
“The council will offer advice and recommendations on research priorities and will not recommend clinical guidelines,” Dr. Carolyn Clancy, who directs the AHRQ, told reporters in a telephone briefing.
Instead, it will look to compare different approaches and give information about how they work. For instance, in 2005, the AHRQ reported that drugs can be as effective as surgery for helping gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD.
“This is the kind of information that, as a physician, I can tell you is too often lacking when physicians and patients are making decisions together,” Clancy said.
Critics of the approach, notably powerful Republican Senator Charles Grassley, say government comparative effectiveness decision-making can lead to rationing of care.
Former New York lieutenant governor Betsy McCaughey, who has become a healthcare advocate, says the program could lead to something akin to Britain’s National Institute for Clinical Excellence, which guides the National Health Service in deciding which treatments to offer.
But Clancy said rarely does such a study show one treatment is superior. “It is extremely unusual and I don’t think we ever had a report that found one intervention was great and another one not useful,” she said.
Besides Clancy, members of the panel include representatives from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the Food and Drug Administration, Department of Defense and Office of Management and Budget.
By Maggie Fox
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