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Beyond compare

The concept behind comparative effectiveness research seems simple enough. Researchers would compare two or more strategies for treating a specific illness and then determine which is the most effective in terms of outcomes and cost. In a health-care system where costs are spiraling upward, it seems reasonable to sift through the myriad treatment options and help doctors and patients zero in on the treatments most likely to work.

But Sens. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., and Mitch McConnell, R-Ky, have introduced a bill that would ban the use of comparative effectiveness research, arguing that it would be used to ration health care, according to this Kaiser Health News item.

Letting the discussions over comparative effectiveness research devolve into a partisan shouting match over rationing doesn't help the average American struggling to make good health-care decisions. Randall Stafford, MD, PhD, an associate professor of medicine at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, thinks there are ways that comparative effectiveness research could be used to improve the quality and affordability of health care.

He co-authored a commentary in the June 17 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, urging policymakers to "get beyond the slogan of 'comparative effectiveness research,'" and delve into the details of how to use the results of the research to improve the health-care system.

Read more about Stafford's thoughts, and listen to him on a podcast, here.

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