AZ plots push into comparative effectiveness

AstraZeneca is taking a gamble on more comparative-effectiveness research. The idea is to show that proving better than placebo isn't enough anymore. Payers are increasingly reluctant to accept treatments that aren't demonstrated to be better than competitors--which often include older and cheaper meds. And if AZ can prove that its drugs actually save money by preventing hospital admissions, then so much the better.

To this end, the company is teaming with the insurer WellPoint's HealthCore unit to comb patient records for the most effective treatments. The two companies will conduct studies using electronic medical records and claims info. AZ will use the results--along with its own clinical trial data--to help persuade payers to cover already marketed drugs and to help decide on which R&D projects to focus.

"We see this as a great opportunity to get access to a large population database," AZ VP James Blasetto said. The companies will look for the best treatments in a variety of diseases, but with an emphasis on chronic illness. Meds for chronic diseases are lucrative because patients take them on an ongoing basis.

The companies say they'll publicly share their study results, and the studies will be designed to prevent bias toward AZ products. Just how they do that isn't clear. "One of the checks and balances is a very strong intent to be able to publish the findings once you complete the work," HealthCore President Marcus Wilson told Dow Jones.  

- see the release from AZ
- read the Dow Jones story