NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Will Comparative Effectiveness Research Kill More People than It Helps?

May 31, 2011

Among lots of different possible treatments for a disease, comparative effectiveness research (CER) aims at figuring out the relative effectiveness of different medical interventions.  A new study argues that federal CER will not generate cheaper, better medical care to the American public.  Instead, it will force cuts in pharmaceutical and medical device research and development, resulting in 32 million lost years of life and economic losses totaling $1.7 trillion, says Ronald Bailey, Reason Magazine's science correspondent.

The study, authored by University of North Carolina health care economist John Vernon and Robert Goldberg, president of the non-profit Center for Medicine in the Public Interest, argues that this deleterious outcome is primarily the result of how CER would affect pharmaceutical and medical device research and development.

  • Vernon and Goldberg argue that pharmaceutical and medical device researchers would have to respond to CER regulations by increasing the size and, thus, the costs of clinical trials.
  • Consequently, CER would delay the arrival of new treatments on the market and slow the rate of technology diffusion among clinicians.
  • Ultimately, CER increases the risk of investing in research on new treatments.

Vernon and Goldberg note, "Health care costs are the focus of most policy considerations because this demand is heavily subsidized by taxpayers.  This subsidy, rather than the value of what is spent on health care is the main concern of legislators."  The more we centralize health care decisions into government bureaucracies the fiercer the political battles over that subsidy will become, says Bailey.

Source: Ronald Bailey, "Will Comparative Effectiveness Research Kill More People than It Helps?" May 24, 2011.

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