Friday, February 27, 2009

Comparative effectiveness research---the New York Times doesn’t get it

On the subject of comparative effectiveness research (CER), I’ll mention briefly some choice examples of specious reporting from the New York Times. They have been cited by other bloggers. I have a contrarian view.

Robert Pear’s piece, published February 15, is simplistically titled U.S. to Compare Medical Treatments. As if we’ve never compared treatments before. But this is particularly rich:

“The new research will eventually save money and lives,” said Representative Pete Stark, Democrat of California.

The United States spends more than $2 trillion a year on health care, but “we have little information about which treatments work best for which patients,” said Mr. Stark, who is the chairman of the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health.

In the absence of information on what works, Mr. Stark said, patients are put at risk, and billions of dollars are spent each year on ineffective or unnecessary treatments.

Wow. Pete Stark says doctors don’t have information on what works. If it were true it might be a convincing argument for spending the $1.1 billion.

Paul Krugman’s NYT blog post from February 10 is titled Ignorance is bliss:

Health care costs are the main reason long-term fiscal projections look so scary — and here we have corporate interest trying to prevent us, not from trying to spend our health dollar more wisely, but from even trying to find out what we get for the health care dollar.

This is truly vile.

I could rant and rave about what’s wrong with popular reporting on medical issues but I wouldn’t do nearly as good a job of making that point as these pieces do all by themselves.

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