Calumniatory PCORI

  • by: |
  • 09/25/2012
A “trust problem” indeed.

The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute’s draft methodology report contains discussions and language choices that could (per Pink Sheet reportage) “tarnish” the institute’s approach to research on pharmaceuticals.

Rust never sleeps.

Both PhRMA and BIO express consternation about what they see as the draft report’s implication that the public should be suspicious of the results of drug industry-sponsored trials.

Their views are contained in recent comments on a draft methodology report written by PCORI’s Methodology Committee. The methodological standards contained in the report will be part of funding review criteria for future applicants for the institute’s research grants.

The idea that manufacturer-sponsored trials may be untrustworthy is mentioned in the report’s introductory chapter, which contains a section labeled “A trust problem.”

PhRMA, in its written comments, responds that the “implication that physicians are willing to subject patients to potential harm as a result of financial interests is troubling and should be deleted.”

BIO’s written comments agree that the passage is “unduly biased against industry-sponsored research” and “presents a skewed view of research conducted by biopharmaceutical companies.”

The Association of Clinical Research Organizations takes an even stronger stance, saying that for the Methodology Committee “to make such assertions of manipulation or bias without any supporting evidence is highly problematic and calls into question the objectivity and integrity of the committee.” It adds that the discussion “impinges on PCORI’s credibility as a research organization by exposing its own potential bias.”

And then there’s the issue of cost in the draft report’s Chapter Five. It says: “The committee’s view is that in the context of PCOR, cost, like other aspects of the health care delivery system, can be a factor in the effectiveness of care if it influences choices made by patients and clinicians. Cost can be an incentive for delivering inappropriate care, not just a barrier to appropriate care. Providers may have incentive to favor more costly treatments under the common belief that ‘more is better’ in healthcare.”

BIO contends that identifying cost as a potential endpoint “is in direct conflict with the authorizing statute’s specific prohibition of PCORI from considering cost effectiveness in studies of comparative effectiveness.”

PhRMA asserts, “While cost undoubtedly can influence the quality and patient-centeredness of care that individuals receive, research that includes cost as an element of analysis or endpoint of measurement is outside the scope of PCORI’s mandate.”

Industry commenters also say the report is trying to do too much by addressing issues that lie outside of research methodology, in particular the report’s discussions of setting research priorities – the topic of an entire chapter – and disseminating research results.

BIO observes that ACA assigns two responsibilities to the methodology report: provide recommendations for PCORI on methodological standards and develop a translation table to guide researchers in applying the standards to specific studies. The “diversity of other subjects the report discusses,” in particular the discussions of the dissemination of research results and developing research priorities, “distracts from the mandated focus on scientifically-derived methodological standards for PCOR and the framework underpinning the development of a translation table,” BIO says.

PhRMA joins in calling for PCORI to cut these non-mandated subjects from the report, saying that given the resources demands of providing comprehensive standards for PCOR, “we recommend PCORI focus its report on standards for research, rather than important but ancillary issues like research priority-setting and results dissemination.”


Center for Medicine in the Public Interest is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization promoting innovative solutions that advance medical progress, reduce health disparities, extend life and make health care more affordable, preventive and patient-centered. CMPI also provides the public, policymakers and the media a reliable source of independent scientific analysis on issues ranging from personalized medicine, food and drug safety, health care reform and comparative effectiveness.

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