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ARRA Funding Opportunity for Programs to Improve Rx Safety and Cut Costs

The Agency on Health Research and Quality (AHRQ) is accepting Letters of Intent until November 18, 2009, for grants of up to $1.5 million that can be used to create an academic detailing initiative.  States are establishing "academic detailing" initiatives, or “Prescriber Education Programs”, to help physicians stay on top of the latest scientific information about drug quality and effectiveness and to reduce the industry’s influence over physicians' prescribing decisions.  The ARRA funds are available for academic detailing as part of comparative effectiveness research initiatives. 

The drug industry spends an average $8,800 directly marketing to each of the 817,000 physicians in the US.  90,000 sales reps, or detailers, and fellow physicians paid by the industry pitch drugs directly to physicians. This is called "detailing".  As the New York Times reported in 2007, "doctors who have close relationships with drug makers tend to prescribe more, newer and pricier drugs" regardless of a drug’s value compared to less expensive medications.  The adverse consequences of industry marketing can be costly, and deadly.  As The Prescription Project reports, $209 million was spent marketing the pain-killer Vioxx. This drove up utilization even though Vioxx was not clinically proven more effective than existing, less expensive drugs and before the medical community had a full understanding for the drug's side effects, resulting in 139,000 people suffering heart attacks.

Academic detailing helps improve medical care and save money by supporting chronic disease management and reducing purchases of unnecessary or less effective but more costly pharmaceuticals.  As reported by Prescription Policy Choices, a pilot Medicaid-based academic detailing initiative achieved $2 in savings for every $1 invested.  For a model program, check our Pennsylvania’s Independent Drug Information Services, which is a partnership between the state and Harvard Medical School.  Also, see Prescription Policy Choices' Academic Detailing Toolkit and the National Legislative Association on Prescription Drug Prices.  Elsewhere, Vermont’s academic detailing program is run by the University of Vermont Medical School and Maine’s is a collaboration between the Maine Medical Association and the State.  Massachusetts and New York are also implementing systems. 

Resources:
Prescription Policy Choices - Academic Detailing Toolkit
Prescription Policy Choices, Maine Center for Economic Policy - A New Kind of House Call Delivers Science Not Sales: Prescription Drug Reform that Works