Second Prize, Short Paper, H. Thomas Austern Memorial Writing Competition, 2011.
While FDA gathers vast amounts of data about prescription drugs prior to their marketing approval, important information about the relative effectiveness and long term safety of products is not required for approval, and often is never collected. Increased postmarket research on the safety and comparative effectiveness of products would improve medical decisionmaking and lead to better clinical outcomes. Fortunately, Congress has recognized the value of this information for healthcare professionals. In response to a congressional mandate in the FDA Amendments Act (FDAAA), FDA is developing the Sentinel Initiative, an active surveillance system for monitoring postmarket drug safety issues. FDAAA also authorized FDA to require a drug sponsor to conduct postmarket safety studies or clinical trials to address a specific safety concern. To increase the repository of comparative effectiveness information, Congress established the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), directing it to manage comparative effectiveness research (CER). This article discusses the need for better safety and comparative effectiveness information and outlines methods to efficiently conduct the research and communicate it effectively to healthcare professionals. Coordination between FDA and the PCORI in gathering and communicating postmarket information is recommended. Medical source data collected by the Sentinel Initiative should be used for CER in addition to postmarket safety surveillance, and FDA and the PCORI should adopt identical standards for the distribution and communication of CER. Coordination between the two entities is recommended to save costs, reduce duplication of efforts, and to generate and communicate more information on prescription drugs for medical decisionmakers.