New Report: Research Needed to Improve Health Care Practices, Save Money

For Immediate Release


Larry McNeely, Health Care Advocate
Office: 202-546-9707, ext. 303

Jeff Bernstein, Senior Policy Analyst
Office: 206-518-6125

New Report: Research Needed to Improve Health Care Practices, Save Money

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

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.

new report
by the consumer watchdog U.S.
Public Interest Research Group
(U.S. PIRG) finds that for the majority of
medical conditions, no studies exist to help doctors – and their patients
– determine the most effective course of treatment among all the
available option.

“The information just
isn’t out there.  Should a patient use a drug, undergo surgery, change
her diet?  With technological advancement as rapid as it is, the distance between
what we know and what we need to know grows daily. We can get the answers, but
we need to devote the resources to research them,” explained Jeff Bernstein,
Policy Analyst for U.S. PIRG
and author of the new report.

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 this kind of research for centuries,” continued Bernstein. 
“In the 16th century, a French surgeon figured out the best
way to treat battlefield wounds, and debunked a folk remedy for poison. 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

At Intermountain, for
example, Caesarian sections were reduced
from a national average of 1 in 3 to 1 in 5, 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, U.S. PIRG’s 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

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.

“Our report shows that
when for-profit companies do this type of research, the results are biased
towards the product they are trying to sell,” Bernstein noted. 

Despite its demonstrated
beneficial effect on both health care and the price we pay for it, comparative
effectiveness research in the health care reform legislation making its way
through Congress has been attacked by reform opponents.

“The people opposing
President Obama’s health care reform say that comparative effectiveness
research leads to the rationing of health care, but that’s just not true,”
said Larry McNeely, U.S. PIRG’s healthcare advocate in Washington. 
“Helping doctors provide the most effective treatments isn’t
rationing – it’s common sense.”

Facts About Comparative Effectiveness Research
points out the prejudice in industry-funded studies
and calls for government-funded unbiased medical research in order to cut the
skyrocketing costs of health care while improving treatment.


U.S. PIRG, the federation of state Public Interest Research Groups (PIRGs), stands up to powerful special interests on behalf of the American public, working to win concrete results for our health and our well-being. With a strong network of researchers, advocates, organizers and students in state capitols across the country, we take on the special interests on issues, such as product safety,political corruption, prescription drugs and voting rights,where these interests stand in the way of reform and progress.

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