ATLANTA -- March 9 -- Atlanta area residents will be the first to participate in a nationwide outreach effort by Consumers Union to put easy-to-understand information about the effectiveness, safety and price of prescription drugs in the hands of seniors, low-income residents and the uninsured to help them navigate the confusing prescription drug marketplace and get the best value for their health-care dollar.
"Our goal is to get unbiased information on prescription drugs into the hands of millions of consumers, and Atlanta is the starting point for that," said Gail Shearer, project director of Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs. "Only when consumers and doctors have independent information on the effectiveness, safety and price of medicines will we see real change in the prescription drug marketplace. We hope to level the playing field for consumers who are confused by all the advertisements for prescription drugs."
Consumers Union, which publishes Consumer Reports, plans to partner with community organizations throughout the nation to help distribute the Best Buy Drug reports to consumers who may not have access to the free Internet Web site, http://www.CRBestBuyDrugs.org. Visitors to the site can find free in-depth reports about how drugs used to treat a particular illness or condition stack up against each other, as well as safety and price information. The site also identifies Best Buy picks for each drug category. Consumers can then take the information to their doctor or pharmacist to begin a dialogue about which drug may be best for them, and which may help them save money.
In Atlanta, Consumers Union teamed with the Atlanta Regional Commission, the Area Agency on Aging for the 10-county region, to help ensure seniors, the uninsured and low-income residents have access to the reports. Atlanta was selected to launch the outreach program because of the region's diversity and the Atlanta Regional Commission's extensive ties to the community, Shearer said. A similar outreach effort will launch next month in Sacramento, Calif.
"There is a real need in America for unbiased information on drug safety, price and effectiveness to help patients, with their doctors, make informed health-care decisions," Shearer said. "What we learn in these cities will help us get this important information to folks who need it most -- those without insurance, seniors and low-income residents."
In Atlanta, old-fashioned community and town hall meetings will help spread the word to those consumers who may not be aware of the program through the Internet.
"While use of computers is rapidly increasing among older adults, they still do not have as much access to online information as other demographic groups," said Cheryll Schramm, project manager for the Atlanta Regional Commission. "We are planning to meet with groups of older adults in senior centers, churches and civic clubs, explaining the program face-to-face and providing copies of the Best Buy Drugs reports."
Currently available on the Web site are reports on cholesterol-lowering drugs (statins), drugs to treat heartburn and acid reflux (proton pump inhibitors), arthritis medications (NSAIDS) and antidepressants. In the next several months, the Web site will offer reports on blood pressure medications (both ACE inhibitors and Beta blockers), medications to treat Alzheimer's disease and medications for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Consumers Union plans to publish reports on a total of 20 different categories of drugs at the rate of about one per month between now and mid-2006.
The Best Buy Drugs project, which is funded by grants from the Engelberg Foundation and the National Library of Medicine, combines evidence-based research on the comparative effectiveness and safety of prescription drugs with national-level data on drug prices. The information on drug effectiveness is derived from the Drug Effectiveness Review Project (DERP) at the Oregon Health and Science University Evidence-based Practice Center. The DERP project compiles drug effectiveness data for states to use in shaping prescription drug coverage choices for Medicaid programs.