Call for increased research into non-drug interventions

Medical studies seldom compare non-drug interventions or examine cost-effectiveness, research suggests.

US researchers examined the prevalence of comparative effectiveness research in six medical journals across a 16-month period. They analysed characteristics such as funding, design and outcomes in 328 drug studies.

32% of papers were identified as comparative effectiveness studies. The authors believe this finding supports concerns that only limited clinical research is currently devoted to using existing therapies more effectively.

These were also less likely to be commercially funded, highlighting the importance of government and non-commercial funding in this type of research, the authors added.

Just 11% of comparative effectiveness studies compared medications with non-drug interventions. 19% of these trials analysed safety, with far more dedicated to efficacy. Just 1% included formal cost effectiveness analyses.

The authors concluded: ‘Our findings suggest government and non-commercial support should be increased for studies involving non-pharmacologic therapies, for studies comparing different therapeutic strategies and for studies focusing on the comparative safety and cost of different therapies.'

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