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Drug comparisons can be healthy

June 13, 2008

Re "The bean counter will see you now," June 9

Your article mistakenly claims that proposals for research into the "comparative effectiveness" of different medical treatments are really just about saving money.

Comparative-effectiveness research is exactly that -- comparing the relative effectiveness of different therapies and drugs. For example, does one drug do a better job on pain control than another for a similar type of patient? Or does a particular drug work better on pain for patients with a certain condition? Comparative-effectiveness researchers do not take cost into account. But at a time when healthcare costs are skyrocketing, what would be wrong with examining whether healthcare purchasers are getting their money's worth?

Before buying a new car or television, many people check public ratings to see which ones work best. Why wouldn't we want to use information like that to make decisions about healthcare as well?

Alan Sokolow

Chief Medical Officer

Blue Shield of California

San Francisco

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As much as I would like to see the prices of prescription drugs, medical tests and treatments go down, we must be very careful of a one-size-fits-all approach. As someone who has some terrible reactions to the "first line of attack" medicines, I am glad to have alternatives. Even if they don't work as well in the healthy population, they are my only choice.

Money would be better spent in physician pharmaceutical education that is not sponsored by drug companies, weeding out the truly harmful medicines and treatments and curbing the aggressive marketing tactics of the drug companies. A manual for the public of all treatments available, including exercise, diet, massage and acupuncture, would be very useful.

Judith Gregg Peters

Glendora

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