Wednesday, June 15, 2011

GAO Study Exposes Questionable “Stimulus” Funding for Questionable PR Campaigns and Comparative Effectiveness Research

The Government Accountability Office released the second of four reports required by the continuing resolution today, this one covering comparative effectiveness research funded in the “stimulus.”  On this list of projects funded by the “stimulus,” several questionable studies stand out:

  • Two separate grants of $8.6 million and $18 million to Ogilvy Public Relations – the former with no description attached, the latter described as funding a “Publicity Center.”  (No word as to whether or not Andy Griffith will be included in this publicity campaign.)
  • A total of eight separate grants with “cost-effectiveness” in the title, including one examining the cost effectiveness of hormonal therapy for prostate cancer.  (Other grants could also incorporate cost-effectiveness research without incorporating the term into their titles.)  Many have previously raised concerns that cost-effectiveness research will be used by federal bureaucrats to deny treatment options the government deems too expensive.  As a reminder, the initial House Appropriations Committee report on the “stimulus” stated that treatments “that are found to be…more expensive will no longer be prescribed” as a result of the effectiveness research funding.
  • A grant of nearly $2.8 million awarded by the HHS Office of the Secretary to the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, the organization that CMS Administrator Donald Berwick formerly led.  The grant was awarded last September 20 (i.e., after Dr. Berwick had taken office at CMS), raising questions about how this grant was processed and whether Dr. Berwick had any input in a grant application involving his former employer.

At a time when the federal government is running trillion-dollar deficits, many may question the point of granting over $26 million to PR firms for a “Publicity Center” – and spending taxpayer dollars on research that could be used to deny vulnerable patients care.