Comparative effectiveness research grants attract strong interest

The grants will fund projects to help a new federal institute judge the effectiveness of medical treatments, devices and drugs.

By Doug Trapp — Posted Dec. 16, 2011

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The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute has received more than 20 applications for each pilot project grant it is offering to groups that help the organization develop priorities and methods for researching the effectiveness of medical care.

PCORI received 856 requests for its Pilot Project Grant Program, its first major funding opportunity. The institute will select approximately 40 awardees by the end of March, each of whom will receive a share of $26 million in pilot grant funding over two years.

PCORI was created by the national health system reform law to study the comparative effectiveness of different medical treatments, devices and drugs in treating the same medical conditions. Such research has faced opposition from critics who are concerned the government and private insurance companies will use its conclusions to favor treatments that benefit a majority of people with a disease or condition, while putting subpopulations at a disadvantage.

The institute's leader said the pilot projects will begin to address knowledge gaps regarding the effectiveness of medical decisions. The pilot grant awardees will examine existing data and research methodologies and suggest initial comparative effectiveness research priorities for PCORI.

"It is a major part of our commitment to live up to our name and begin to transform the research enterprise," said PCORI Executive Director Joe V. Selby, MD, MPH. Before joining the institute, Dr. Selby for 13 years was the director of the division of research for Kaiser Permanente of Northern California.

The institute's 21-member board of governors will conduct pilot grant merit reviews with the assistance of the National Institutes of Health, other scientists, patient advocates and others. PCORI received 349 grant reviewer applications from such stakeholders, including 160 patients, patient advocates and caregivers. Another 600 scientists also volunteered to serve as reviewers.

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