Consumers Union’s Schwartz nominated for healthcare reform board

Consumers Union announced Tuesday that it has nominated Board Chair Teresa Moran Schwartz to serve as a consumer representative on the panel overseeing comparative effectiveness research. The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute was created by the healthcare reform law to help contain soaring healthcare costs by disseminating research on which medical procedures work best.

“Comparative effectiveness research is absolutely critical to reforming health care, and in all of my work with consumer leaders over the last several years, I can think of no one who would be better for this crucially important assignment,” Jim Guest, president and CEO of Consumers Union, said in a statement.

Comparative effectiveness research became a lightning rod during the healthcare reform debate for critics worried about governing rationing. Congress jettisoned the House bill’s government-based panel for a public-private partnership that includes safeguards against using the research to mandate coverage or reimbursement.

The law calls for the Comptroller General to appoint 19 members to the panel’s Board of Governors by Sept. 23, in addition to the directors of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and the National Institutes of Health. Stakeholders are represented by board members thusly: 

• Patients and consumers: 3;

• Physicians and providers: 7;

• Private payers: 3;

• Pharmaceutical, device and diagnostic manufacturers: 3;

• Independent health service researchers: 1;

• Federal government and states: 2.

Other stakeholders have already announced their choices.

The drug lobby has proposed four options, all of them high-ranking officials with top manufacturers: Freda Lewis-Hall (Pfizer), Joshua Ofman (Amgen), Michael Rosenblatt (Merck) and Ellen Strahlman (GlaxoSmithKline).

“All four candidates not only have advanced medical degrees, they also have extensive backgrounds in clinical research and public health,” the industry group Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America said in a statement. “Such experience allows them to bring to the table valuable scientific, clinical, policy and research expertise as they work to support the Institute’s goals.”