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WellPoint, AstraZeneca research cost-effective drug treatments

WellPoint has teamed up with drug maker AstraZeneca to determine the most effective and economical treatments for chronic illnesses and other diseases, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Under the four-year deal, AstraZeneca and WellPoint's HealthCore unit will conduct studies analyzing electronic medical records, claims information and patient surveys. The data are generated from about 36 million people insured by WellPoint and several regional Blue Cross Blue Shield plans, according to The Medical News.

The research, including prospective and retrospective observational studies on disease states as well as comparative effectiveness research, is designed to compare multiple treatment options to find the best and most cost-effective. It also will provide insight into the types of new therapies most needed for treating and preventing disease.

Drug companies say healthcare payers are increasingly insisting manufacturers prove that drugs are not only safe and effective compared with a placebo, but also superior to other options, and that they provide economic value. Government funding for comparative-effectiveness research has expanded under the Obama administration's economic-stimulus and health-overhaul packages.

"Everyone in the healthcare system is feeling economic pressure and is looking for ways to assess cost and clinical effectiveness of treatments," James Blasetto, Astra's vice president of U.S. strategic development, told the WSJ Health Blog. "Advances in health information technology, including availability of longitudinal, integrated patient-level data create the opportunity to conduct meaningful real-world analyses."

AstraZeneca will use the HealthCore data together with its own clinical-trial data to guide decisions on where to invest its research and development dollars, and is in talks with payers about providing coverage for drugs already on the market. The companies also say they plan to make their findings publicly available and to expand their partnership to include hospitals and other organizations.

"This collaboration with AstraZeneca and, ultimately, provider partners, will enable us to answer fundamental questions of clinical science and, most important, clinical care," said WellPoint Chief Medical Officer Dr. Sam Nussbaum. "This will allow improved health and well being and ultimately reduce the human and financial impact of illness."

To learn more:
- read the Wall Street Journal article
- see the Wall Street Journal Health Blog piece
- check out The Medical News story

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WellPoint deal lets health plan create national HIE
WellPoint, UnitedHealth Group announce changes in their use of rescission

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