Comparative Effectiveness and Health Care Reform

As the debate rages in the United States over health care reform, some are seeing good signs for the public sector, but bad signs for the pharmaceutical industry. Despite Republican-backed legislation that prohibits any use of comparative effectiveness, which means that the government can’t use research to dictate care, they are receiving major pushback from the pharmaceutical industry.

Comparative effectiveness is a hot bedded issue because it challenges the power of the government over the power of the public sector. The big pharmaceutical companies have been attacking this for years, as they fear head-to-head studies would favor the lower-cost treatments over typical, more expensive branded medicine. While the government, on the other hand, simply sees this as just another way of cutting cost. The large pharmaceutical companies don’t want these research mandates being the final decider in treatment guidelines and insurance coverage, while the government sees this as unnecessary and wasteful spending, as well as being bad for the common citizen. And the debate rages on.

However, the Senate is currently working on a compromise to resolve this issue, but will it be enough? The Senate is currently working on many comparative effectiveness provisions in its new version of the health care bill, which contains some interesting elements. The Democrats in the Senate supports either non-affiliated pharmaceutical consultancy firms, or non-profits, to conduct all the research, instead of a government appointed agency. The bill would also negate any medical practice guidelines or insurance coverage recommendations as being the final say in recommending treatments, as the pharmaceutical companies fear.

However, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, as well as the National Institute of Health beg to differ. They see comparative effectiveness as an optimum way for not only doctors, but also patients, to have the ability to pick the most effective care, as well as control health care costs. They are stating that without the proper research into these new expensive treatments, there will be no way to cut costs on these expensive treatments down the line, thus making them unaffordable for those who need them most. But the large pharmaceutical companies disagree and say that any cost comparisons would only lead to further denial of care, not the dissipation of it.

As the debate rages on, speculations on who’s really looking out for the American people are starting to surface. With the Democrats promising change in the last election, a lot of Americans are just seeing politics as usual. A lot of people in the Democratic Party are seeing conservative Democrats, called “Blue Dog” Democrats, as being the major stumbling block to this compromise taking place. It has also been reported that “Blue Dog” Democrats have received much more funding from the pharmaceutical industry in recent years, and are in the tank for the pharmaceutical industry. Pharmaceutical consulting firms believe only time will tell how this story unfolds, but as cooler weather approaches, there is no doubt that this debate about health care will only heat up, rather than cool off.

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