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Medicare Proposes Use of Drug Data to Improve Care

By CQ Staff

October 13, 2006 -- The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced late Friday that it will propose a regulation allowing researchers access to Medicare prescription drug data to improve the quality and efficiency of health care.

CMS Administrator Mark B. McClellan called the data an "unprecedented resource" to help seniors get the most benefit from prescription drugs. Studies could provide the Food and Drug Administration with more timely and complete data on drug side effects, CMS noted in a press release. Allowing access to the data also could identify potential ways to save money through more effective adherence to instructions for taking drugs for chronic disease, the agency added. Other research also could identify and help close disparities in the use of pharmaceuticals based on race, for example.

CMS also said drugs could be studied to determine whether they reduce or increase use of certain types of health care services. Asked whether the data could be used to compare treatment outcomes associated with competing pharmaceuticals, CMS spokesman Peter Ashkenaz said that's the kind of question on which the agency would like to receive comment. The press release invites comment on whether special safeguards are needed "against the potential misuse of data for non-research commercial purposes."

CMS will publish the proposed regulation in the Federal Register Oct. 17 and take comments until Dec. 18.

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