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A new report released today by the Arizona PIRG Education Fund finds that for the majority of medical conditions, no studies exist that determine the most effective course of treatment among all the available options.
According to Diane E. Brown, Executive Director of the Arizona PIRG Education Fund, "If you are a consumer and you want to buy a blender or a new car, there are dozens of research studies available comparing cost, effectiveness, reliability, and durability. But if you are a doctor dealing with your patient's high blood pressure, hearing loss, depression or prostate cancer, you have few places - and in some case, nowhere - to turn." Brown added that with technological advancement as rapid as it is, the distance between what we know and what we need to know grows daily. The Arizona PIRG Education Fund's report highlights how it is possible to get the answers, provided the resources are devoted for research.
Drawing on numerous medical journal resources, The Facts about Comparative Effectiveness Research looks at "comparative effectiveness research" (CER), which is the scientific study of treatments, drugs, and medical devices to determine which are most effective for which types of patient.
"Doctors have been performing research for centuries," continued Brown. "Today, places like the Mayo Clinic and Intermountain Healthcare in Utah are saving lives and millions of dollars by finding the best ways to treat their patients."
At Intermountain, for example, Caesarian sections were reduced from a national average of one in three to one in five, and women admitted to Intermountain have spent 45,000 fewer hours in labor than would have been expected under previous protocols, saving over $10 million per year.
But while individual efforts are laudable, the country's ailing health care system needs a coordinated, national research effort, the Arizona PIRG Education Fund study finds. Doctors and prestigious health institutions, like the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, agree.
The Institute, part of the National Academy of Sciences, recently listed 100 medical conditions or health concerns where comparative effectiveness is needed and called on the government to fund and develop "a robust CER infrastructure... to sustain CER well into the future."
Some comparative effectiveness studies do exist, but, as The Facts about Comparative Effectiveness Research, details, much of them are slanted or biased since they are funded by companies with a financial stake in the results. Due to the lack of impartial information, unsuspecting doctors sometimes provide unnecessary and even harmful care. These ineffective treatments can leave patients at risk, and drive up health care costs. The Arizona PIRG Education Fund's report calls for government-funded unbiased medical research in order to cut the skyrocketing costs of health care while improving treatment.
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