Less than a third of medication studies published in top journals provide comparative-effectiveness findings that help doctors choose the best treatments for their patients, and studies that do focus on comparing available treatments are limited in their scope, according to a study published in the March 10 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Study notes lack of comparative-effectiveness information
Researchers at Harvard Medical School and the University of Southern California reviewed 328 medication studies published in six medical journals between June 2008 and September 2009 and found just 32% qualified as comparative-effectiveness studies. The review also revealed that most of those studies were limited in scope, only comparing the efficacy of competing prescription medicines. Just 11% of comparative-effectiveness studies compared drugs with nonpharmacologic therapies such as lifestyle changes; 19% compared medication safety; and 2% included cost-effectiveness analysis, according to the study, titled “Characteristics of published comparative effectiveness studies of medication.”
The authors also found that drugmakers funded very little of the existing comparative-effectiveness research. Nearly 90% of such studies were funded by noncommercial institutions such as not-for-profit foundations or government agencies.
“Most of the comparative-effectiveness studies we reviewed simply tested whether medication ‘x’ is better than medication ‘y,’ rather than addressing fundamental questions such as: How can we use this medication more effectively,” said Danny McCormick, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and a senior author of the study.
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