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The Pragmatist's Guide to Comparative Effectiveness Research

Author

Listed:
  • Amitabh Chandra
  • Anupam B. Jena
  • Jonathan S. Skinner

Abstract

Following an acrimonious healthcare reform debate involving charges of "death panels," in 2010, Congress explicitly forbade the use of cost-effectiveness analysis in government programs of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. In this context, comparative effectiveness research emerged as an alternative strategy to understand better what works in health care. Put simply, comparative effectiveness research compares the efficacy of two or more diagnostic tests, treatments, or health care delivery methods without any explicit consideration of costs . To economists, the omission of costs from an assessment might seem nonsensical, but we argue that comparative effectiveness research still holds promise. First, it sidesteps one problem facing cost-effectiveness analysis—the widespread political resistance to the idea of using prices in health care. Second, there is little or no evidence on comparative effectiveness for a vast array of treatments: for example, we don't know whether proton-beam therapy, a very expensive treatment for prostate cancer (which requires building a cyclotron and a facility the size of a football field) offers any advantage over conventional approaches. Most drug studies compare new drugs to placebos, rather than "head-to-head" with other drugs on the market, leaving a vacuum as to which drug works best. Finally, the comparative effectiveness research can prove a useful first step even in the absence of cost information if it provides key estimates of treatment effects. After all, such effects are typically expensive to determine and require years or even decades of data. Costs are much easier to measure, and can be appended at a later date as financial Armageddon draws closer.

Suggested Citation

  • Amitabh Chandra & Anupam B. Jena & Jonathan S. Skinner, 2011. "The Pragmatist's Guide to Comparative Effectiveness Research," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 25(2), pages 27-46, Spring.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:25:y:2011:i:2:p:27-46
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/jep.25.2.27
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    File URL: http://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/jep.25.2.27
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Amitabh Chandra & Douglas O. Staiger, 2007. "Productivity Spillovers in Health Care: Evidence from the Treatment of Heart Attacks," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 115, pages 103-140.
    2. Katherine Baicker & Jonathan Skinner, 2011. "Health Care Spending Growth and the Future of U.S. Tax Rates," Tax Policy and the Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 25(1), pages 39-68.
    3. Nord, Erik & Richardson, Jeff & Street, Andrew & Kuhse, Helga & Singer, Peter, 1995. "Who cares about cost? Does economic analysis impose or reflect social values?," Health Policy, Elsevier, vol. 34(2), pages 79-94, November.
    4. Basu, Anirban & Jena, Anupam B. & Philipson, Tomas J., 2011. "The impact of comparative effectiveness research on health and health care spending," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(4), pages 695-706, July.
    5. Douglas Almond & Joseph J. Doyle & Amanda E. Kowalski & Heidi Williams, 2010. "Estimating Marginal Returns to Medical Care: Evidence from At-risk Newborns," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 125(2), pages 591-634.
    6. Meltzer, David, 1997. "Accounting for future costs in medical cost-effectiveness analysis," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 16(1), pages 33-64, February.
    7. Anupam Jena & Tomas Philipson, 2009. "Endogenous Cost-Effectiveness Analysis in Health Care Technology Adoption," NBER Working Papers 15032, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. David Meltzer, 1997. "Accounting for Future Costs in Medical Cost-Effectiveness Analysis," NBER Working Papers 5946, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Garber, Alan M. & Phelps, Charles E., 1997. "Economic foundations of cost-effectiveness analysis," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 16(1), pages 1-31, February.
    10. DiMasi, Joseph A. & Hansen, Ronald W. & Grabowski, Henry G., 2003. "The price of innovation: new estimates of drug development costs," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(2), pages 151-185, March.
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    Cited by:

    1. Cox, James C. & Sadiraj, Vjollca & Schnier, Kurt E. & Sweeney, John F., 2016. "Higher quality and lower cost from improving hospital discharge decision making," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 131(PB), pages 1-16.
    2. Bhardwaj, Ramesh, 2015. "Restraining High and Rising Cancer Drug Prices: Need for Accelerating R&D Productivity and Aligning Prices with Value," MPRA Paper 63405, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    3. Liran Einav & Amy Finkelstein & Heidi Williams, 2016. "Paying on the Margin for Medical Care: Evidence from Breast Cancer Treatments," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 8(1), pages 52-79, February.
    4. Alica Stubnova Sparling & David W. Martin & Lillian B. Posey, 2017. "An Evaluation of the Proposed Worker Protection Standard with Respect to Pesticide Exposure, and Parkinson’s Disease," Working Papers 17-02, Davidson College, Department of Economics, revised Jun 2017.
    5. David H. Howard & Yu-Chu Shen, 2011. "Comparative Effectiveness Research, COURAGE, and Technological Abandonment," NBER Working Papers 17371, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. McCarthy, Ian M., 2016. "Eliminating composite bias in treatment effects estimates: Applications to quality of life assessment," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 50(C), pages 47-58.
    7. repec:exc:wpaper:2013-09 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. Ian M. McCarthy, 2014. "Eliminating Aggregation Bias when Estimating Treatment Effects on Combined Outcomes with Applications to Quality of Life Assessment," Emory Economics 1409, Department of Economics, Emory University (Atlanta).
    9. Alica Stubnova Sparling & David W. Martin & Lillian B. Posey, 2016. "An Evaluation of the Proposed Worker Protection Standard with Respect to Pesticide Exposure, and Parkinson’s Disease," Working Papers 16-02, Davidson College, Department of Economics, revised Sep 2016.
    10. Amitabh Chandra & Jonathan Skinner, 2012. "Technology Growth and Expenditure Growth in Health Care," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 50(3), pages 645-680, September.
    11. Boone, Jan, 2013. "Does the market choose optimal health insurance coverage?," CEPR Discussion Papers 9420, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I11 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Analysis of Health Care Markets
    • I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health
    • H51 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Government Expenditures and Health
    • H61 - Public Economics - - National Budget, Deficit, and Debt - - - Budget; Budget Systems

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