October 5, 2005

Karen Kreeger
(215) 349-5658


Penn Epidemiologists Become Part of Federal Program
to Research Making Better Treatment Decisions

(Philadelphia, PA) - The Center for Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics (CCEB), within the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, has become part of the new Effective Health Care Program, within the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). The program was launched last week to help clinicians and patients determine which drugs and other medical treatments work best for certain health conditions.

The program will support the development of new scientific information through research on the outcomes of health care services and therapies, including drugs. By reviewing and synthesizing published and unpublished scientific studies, as well as identifying important issues where existing evidence is insufficient, the program will help provide clinicians and patients with better information for making treatment decisions. Initial reports from the new program will be issued this fall, with particular focus on effectiveness information relevant to Medicare beneficiaries. For more information, go to the program's website: www.effectivehealthcare.ahrq.gov.

CCEB is part of a new network of 13 Developing Evidence to Inform Decisions about Effectiveness (DEcIDE) research centers that will conduct studies aimed at filling knowledge gaps about treatment effectiveness. Operating under strict procedures to guarantee privacy and security, DEcIDE centers will use de-identified data available through insurers, health plan, and other partner organizations to answer questions about the use, benefits, and risks of medications and other therapies. DEcIDE centers will begin work on 15 research projects immediately.

To start, CCEB researchers will examine the association between antidepressant drugs and aspiration pneumonia in the aged. "Nearly all drugs are approved based on studies comparing the new drug to a placebo," explains Co-Principal Investigator of the Penn DEcIDE program Sean Hennessy, PharmD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Epidemiology and of Pharmacology. "However, what patients and clinicians really need to know is not how well the new drug works compared with a placebo, but compared with what is already available. This lack of information on comparative effectiveness makes it very difficult to make evidence-based decisions. In the years to come, the DEcIDE Network will play a key role in addressing the need for information on comparative effectiveness. We at Penn are thrilled to be able to take part in this important effort."

CCEB Director Brian Strom, MD, MPH is the Principal Investigator of the center. CCEB has been awarded $250,000 for their first study within the DEcIDE program.


PENN Medicine is a $2.7 billion enterprise dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, and high-quality patient care. PENN Medicine consists of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine (founded in 1765 as the nation's first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania Health System.

Penn’s School of Medicine is ranked #2 in the nation for receipt of NIH research funds; and ranked #4 in the nation in U.S. News & World Report’s most recent ranking of top research-oriented medical schools. Supporting 1,400 fulltime faculty and 700 students, the School of Medicine is recognized worldwide for its superior education and training of the next generation of physician-scientists and leaders of academic medicine.

The University of Pennsylvania Health System includes: its flagship hospital, the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, consistently rated one of the nation’s “Honor Roll” hospitals by U.S. News & World Report; Pennsylvania Hospital, the nation's first hospital; Penn Presbyterian Medical Center; a faculty practice plan; a primary-care provider network; two multispecialty satellite facilities; and home health care and hospice.

This release is available online at http://www.uphs.upenn.edu/news/News_Releases/oct05/EHCP.htm