There has been a lot of publicity surrounding the $787 billion economic stimulus bill approved by Congress. One thing that the bill will do for the first time is provide substantial amounts of money for the federal government to compare the effectiveness of different treatments for
the same illness. Researchers are scheduled to receive $1.1 billion to compare
drugs, medical devices, surgery and other ways of treating specific
conditions. The bill also creates a council of up to 15 federal employees to
coordinate the research and to advise President Obama and Congress on how to spend our money.

The eventual goal of this program is to save money. It responds to a growing number of voices that say doctors have little or no solid evidence of the value of many treatments. Supporters of the research hope it will eventually save money by discouraging the use of costly and ineffective treatments.

The N.Y.Times has published an article about this that gives a general background to the issue.

I know many people have applauded this part of the stimulus package, but I am very concerned. Prostate cancer has very few approved treatments that have demonstrated statically to extend survival (the usual criteria used by the FDA). Our more creative doctors, through experimentation, have learned to mix and match treatments to extend our life. These methods and treatments might now become excluded from reimbursement by the insurance company’s as well as Medicaire.

Joel T. Nowak MA, MSW