A multi-million dollar investment in a US-based project aims to improve consumers’ and clinicians’ critical treatment decisions about drugs and other therapeutic interventions.

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) has awarded $41.6 million over the next four years to fund a new co-ordinating centre and 10 research sites, expanding on the ongoing Centers for Education and Research on Therapeutics (CERTs) programme.

"The United States healthcare system suffers from ongoing problems of underuse, overuse and misuse of drugs, with unacceptably high rates of preventable errors, harmful side-effects and bad patient health outcomes," comments Bruce Lambert, professor of pharmacy administration and director of the new CERTs centre at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

“Expanding the Centers for Education and Research on Therapeutics Program allows AHRQ to build a strong evidence base that consumers, clinicians and others can use to make critical treatment decisions about therapeutic products and interventions,” adds Carolyn Clancy AHRQ Director. “The increased number and breadth of expertise in the CERTs will broaden the range of knowledge to help the healthcare system make measurable improvements in the quality and safety of medications and other treatments and healthcare.”

New projects in the CERTs programme include: using health information technology to improve the safe use of medications; reinvigorating formularies to promote best medication use; examining how children’s metabolism may affect drug effectiveness and safety, and other means to improve paediatric care; and the clinical and economic implications of medications and other therapeutics used in hospital.

Improving choice

For example, Professor Lambert said, the new centre at the University of Illinois at Chicago aims to improve “systems for choosing the best drugs for each medical condition, by more carefully monitoring how drugs are used, by linking laboratory and pharmacy information systems, by scientifically testing alternative treatments for individual patients, and by using economic experts to better understand the costs and benefits of all of these activities.”

Authorized by Congress in 1997 and administered by the AHRQ and FDA, CERTS examines the benefits, risks and cost-effectiveness of therapeutic products. The programme also seeks to educate patients, consumers, doctors, pharmacists and other clinical personnel; and to improve quality of care, while reducing unnecessary costs by increasing appropriate use of therapeutics and preventing adverse effects and their medical consequences. AHRQ is part of the US Department of Health and Human Services.