Comparative Effectiveness Research

by Tom aka Rusty Rustbelt

Comparative Effectiveness Research (CER) may have inadvertently lost credibility even before health care reform is actually launched.

CER is the darling of the government-dominated health reform movement (not a government take-over, to be clear). The use of evidence-based medicine when combined with cost-benefit analysis has the potential to save a great deal of money while better serving the patients. Many see downsides though; too rigid protocols and interference with physician judgment, or the dirty “R” word, rationing.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recently released a study on various breast cancer screening modalities, recommending more limited screening protocols, particularly delaying routine mammography until age 50 (except in women with unusual risk factors).

Kah – boom!

USPSTF points out film mammography does cut mortality, with the greatest reductions in women over 50, with the best results in the age 60 – 69 cohort. Film mammography does carry a risk of false positives and the pain and inconvenience of unnecessary biopsies.

USPSTF also recommends ceasing mammography on women over 74, citing a lack of reliable evidence of reduced mortality.

There was a huge backlash from women, physicians, cancer activists and some health care associations.

USPSTF also recommends against teaching women to perform ”breast self-exam” (BSE) which has been a standard tool for decades. More backlash.

USPSTF does point out that digital and MRI mammography do not show, at this time, significant improvement over film mammography, but do have greater costs.

None of the conclusion appear to have been made on strong and startling statistics, but on think pros and cons, as one might expect from quants and scientists.

Women apparently want a little less quantitative analysis and a lot more consideration.

USPSTF report

cross-posted at Health care think tank