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Benefits of Comparative Effectiveness Research

Comparative effectiveness research is under attack as a new way to limit access to the best health care. Nothing could be further from the truth—in fact, it’s the exact opposite.

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Comparative effectiveness research is under attack as a new way to limit access to the best health care. Nothing could be further from the truth—in fact, it’s the exact opposite. Right now, drug and device companies provide doctors and patients with information on what works and what doesn’t—and more often than not they claim that the newest and most expensive drug or procedure works best. Shouldn’t doctors and patients have access to impartial scientific studies about the effectiveness of different treatments so they can use this information to make the best health decisions?

Comparative effectiveness research describes research that compares the effectiveness of different treatments for the same illness. Dr. Elliott S. Fisher of Dartmouth Medical School explains that CER would help researchers answer questions, such as:

  • Is it better to treat severe neck pain with surgery or a combination of physical therapy, exercise, and medications?
  • What is the best combination of “talk therapy” and prescription drugs to treat mild depression?
  • How do drugs and “watchful waiting” compare with surgery as a treatment for leg pain that results from blockage of the arteries in the lower legs?
  • Is it better to treat chronic heart failure by medications alone or by drugs and home monitoring of a patient’s blood pressure and weight?

CER will empower doctors and patients so that science—not drug and medical device companies—can help determine the best treatments. The problem is that some of the drug and device companies don’t want patients and doctors to know the best treatment. In their quest for profits, they want us to think that their newest, most expensive product is always the best treatment.

We need to understand what works. We need to evaluate which drugs, devices, and treatments are most effective so that medical professionals and patients have the information they need to make the best medical choices.

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