COP researchers take on project to help institutions make wise drug decisions

Researchers from the University of Arizona College of Pharmacy, collaborating with experts from pharmacy professional organizations and the University of Utah, will receive $1.25 million from the federal Agency on Healthcare Research and Quality over the next three years to help hospitals and insurance companies select the best medicines for their patients’ needs.

Daniel Malone, PhD, professor at the UA College of Pharmacy, heads the project.

“Hospitals, clinics, HMOs and other managed care organizations have committees of doctors and pharmacists that make important decisions about what medications to include on formularies and to use to treat patients with specific medical conditions,” Dr. Malone says.

 “Our project will assess how these committees use information about the effectiveness of medicines in their decision-making. Then we’ll develop a training program on using comparative information and evaluate the impact of these training programs.”

The research project is a collaborative effort among the UA College of Pharmacy, the Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy, the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists Research and Education Foundation, and the University of Utah.  The overall goal of the project is to increase awareness and use of comparative effectiveness research reports by the committees.  Comparative effectiveness research provides evidence on the effectiveness, benefits, and harms of different treatment options. The evidence is generated from research studies that compare drugs, medical devices, tests, surgeries, or ways to deliver health care.

“Ultimately every healthcare consumer could benefit from this work because it will enhance the ability of our health plans and health centers to select the best drugs and medical products for patients, and enhance overall care,” Malone says.

The grant was made possible through funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the federal stimulus legislation.

“We believe this project will have many long-term positive effects on how important decisions are made in healthcare organizations,” Malone says. “Immediately, it is having a positive impact by restoring and continuing jobs held by highly trained scientists and staff who have been affected by the economic downturn.”

In addition to Malone, the investigators on the research project from the UA College of Pharmacy are Lisa Hines, PharmD; Jason Hurwitz, PhD; and Terri Warholak, PhD. Collaborating on the project are Diana Brixner, PhD, of the University of Utah College of Pharmacy; Daniel J. Cobaugh, PharmD, of the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists Research and Education Foundation; and Marissa Schlaifer, MS, of the Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy.