Friday, March 13, 2009
IN MY OPINION (Column)
Research to Further Educate Our Doctors
By TED RUHIG
As life expectancy has increased, more and more funds are being expended to keep us oldsters alive. It doesn’t hurt to recall that, all over the world, life expectancy is continually increasing.
Although life expectancy in the U.S. is not so great when compared with folks in several other countries, being ranked 30th in the world still give us a comfortable 78.6 years of life expectancy.
It is good to know that, for the first time, Congress, through the $787 billion economic stimulus bill, has come up with substantial amounts of money to compare the effectiveness of different treatments for the same illness.
The legislators provided $1.1 billion for researchers to compare drugs, medical devices, surgery and other ways of treating specific illnesses and conditions. The programs respond to a growing concern that doctors have little or no solid proof of the worth of many common treatments.
Consumer groups, labor unions, large employers and pharmacy benefit managers support this medical effort. They say it would fill a huge gap in the information that doctors use to make their medical decisions. Congressman Pete Stark, a Democrat from California, has observed: “The new research will eventually save money and lives.”
The congressman added: “We have little information about which treatments work best for which patients. We spend $2 trillion a year on health care and should have better information.”
A story carried by Science Day on February 24, 2009, describes the state of affairs. The story describes “an examination of clinical practice guidelines for treating cardiovascular disease (the leading cause of death among the elderly) and [finds] that current recommendations are largely based on lower levels of evidence or expert opinion … reflecting deficiencies in the sources of definite data available.”
The Science Day article suggests that to remedy this problem, “the medical research community needs to streamline trials, focus on areas of deficient evidence and expand funding for clinical research.”
Congressman Stark concluded that “in the absence of what works, patients are put at risk, and billions of dollars are spent each year on ineffective or unnecessary treatments.”
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton recently stated that she favored comparative effectiveness research that includes woman and members of minority groups, as they have been left out many medical trials in the past.
Congressman Stark, as Chair of the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health, has seen to including more than $1 billion in the economic stimulus package to fund research on the effectiveness of different treatments of various sicknesses or debilitating conditions.
We oldsters certainly should receive better medical treatment. As a result, we’ll be able to extend our life expectancy even more.
— Capitol News Service