December 14, 2005
The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) has selected the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to conduct studies testing what treatments work best for particular health conditions with the goal of promoting better patient outcomes.
The agency, a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, named 13 centers nationwide as part of its new Effective Health Care Program.
Dr. Suzanne L. West, associate director of the UNC-GSK Center of Excellence in Pharmacoepidemiology and Public Health and director of research development for UNC’s Center for Women’s Health Research, will lead UNC’s effort. West is also an associate professor of epidemiology in UNC’s School of Public Health and of obstetrics and gynecology in UNC’s School of Medicine.
Dr. Mick Murray, Mescal S. Ferguson distinguished professor and chairman of the Division of Pharmaceutical Outcomes and Policy in UNC’s School of Pharmacy, is co-principal investigator. UNC’s Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research will administer the project, which also will involve faculty from the schools of medicine, nursing, pharmacy, public health, social work and information and library science.
“Improving the evidence that clinicians need to effectively treat their patients while managing possible drug side effects is best solved by involving researchers from many interrelated but distinct disciplines,” West said. “UNC’s nationally recognized faculty will be able to assist AHRQ with many of the difficult issues they are facing as Medicare’s prescription drug plan takes effect January 1, 2006.”
Collectively known as DEcIDE (or Developing Evidence to Inform Decisions About Effectiveness), the 13 research centers will carry out accelerated studies, including research focused on increasing knowledge about treatment effectiveness. Operating under strict procedures to guarantee privacy and security, DEcIDE centers will use data available through insurers, health plans and other partner organizations to answer questions about the use, benefits and risks of medications and other therapies.
The $15 million AHRQ program will support the development of new scientific information through research on the outcomes of health-care services and therapies, including drugs. By reviewing and synthesizing published and unpublished scientific studies, as well as identifying important issues where existing evidence is insufficient, the program will help provide clinicians and patients with better information for making treatment decisions. Initial reports from the new program are expected this fall.
In addition to UNC, the other institutions to selected for DEcIDE research centers are: Acumen, LLC, in Burlingame, Calif; Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston; Duke University; Harvard Pilgrim Health Care in Boston; Johns Hopkins University; Outcome Sciences in Cambridge, Mass.; RTI International in Research Triangle Park; the University of Colorado at Denver and Health Sciences Center in Aurora, Colo.; the University of Illinois at Chicago; the University of Maryland at Baltimore; the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine; and Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn.
More information about the program is available at www.effectivehealthcare.ahrq.gov.