Obama taps efficiency crusader to lead CMS

Get ready for another healthcare-reform tussle. As PhRMA gets set to lobby for changes to a Medicare-payment board created by the reform package, President Obama has nominated an efficiency advocate to lead the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Dr. Donald Berwick, who teaches health policy and management at Harvard University, has been an outspoken champion of new ways to approach healthcare payments. He's one of the experts who's recommended paying for the results of care, rather than on a service-by-service basis.

What about his pharma-specific thoughts? He has advocated for "more appropriate use of pharmaceuticals in the elderly," which in some cases has meant using older, cheaper meds rather than new, highly powerful and more expensive ones. He has supported comparative effectiveness as a way to help doctors avoid treatments that cost more and don't work as well as other alternatives.

PhRMA has already said that it's not happy with the broad powers healthcare reform allotted to an independent board that could change Medicare payments. From what we read, Berwick seems likely to advocate innovative changes to Medicare. The upcoming confirmation hearings could give us more idea of how drugmakers and Berwick might work together--or not. Stay tuned.

- see the story from Bloomberg
- get a link to a comparative-effectiveness interview with Berwick
- read an Annals of Internal Medicine article by Berwick