National Pharmaceutical Council Examines Optimal Process for Prioritizing Comparative Effectiveness Research

WASHINGTON, DC (December 5, 2011)--With millions of dollars in funding set aside for comparative effectiveness research (CER) and countless unanswered health questions, it will be important to prioritize what health topics will be funded, and to determine which research questions are among the most important for society. In an article published today in the December issue of the policy journal Health Affairs, the National Pharmaceutical Council (NPC) examines an optimal decision-making process that could be utilized by research organizations in setting CER priorities.

The article is particularly relevant because the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI), the public-private entity charged with overseeing this research, is currently developing a set of national research priorities and a research agenda.

“With a renewed focus on the nation’s priorities for health, all citizens have a vested interest in which activities will and will not be undertaken,” wrote NPC Chief Science Officer Robert Dubois, MD, PhD, and NPC Research Director for Methods, Evidence and Coverage Jennifer Graff, PharmD.

In the article, Drs. Dubois and Graff examined how organizations such as the Institute of Medicine Committee on Comparative Effectiveness Research Prioritization, the United Kingdom’s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, and the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association Technology Evaluation Center prioritize the studies that are undertaken. Based on their findings, Drs. Dubois and Graff set forth key recommendations that should be used to make research decision-making processes more effective. These include:

  • Defining priorities to identify what has greater and lesser importance
  • Ensuring that all stakeholders are engaged in all aspects of the prioritization process, including identifying topics and prioritizing among them;
  • Using a systematic approach when considering all evidence as it relates to prioritizing topics;
  • Maintaining an open and transparent consensus process which can handle inevitable disagreement;
  • Communicating the process and the results of the process;
  • Allowing for the incorporation of new evidence that takes into account continuing advances in medical care or technology; and
  • Evaluating the results of the process by asking both those involved in the process and the general public.

“In this environment, any prioritization process selected will be under scrutiny. The elements we propose should enhance that process so that it can withstand inevitable criticism. A transparent dialogue needs to occur between those who prioritize research and the public,” they wrote.

Dr. Dubois added that PCORI is already utilizing many of these elements in its decision-making process and has taken great care to involve a broad range of stakeholders.

The article is available on the Health Affairs website, and you can watch Dr. Dubois explain the prioritization concepts in a brief video.


About the National Pharmaceutical Council

The National Pharmaceutical Council is a health policy research organization dedicated to the advancement of good evidence and science, and to fostering an environment in the United States that supports medical innovation. Founded in 1953 and supported by the nation’s major research-based pharmaceutical companies, NPC focuses on research development, information dissemination, and education on the critical issues of evidence, innovation and the value of medicines for patients. For more information, visit

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