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    New Opportunities in Health Economics and Outcomes Research

    Several schools of pharmacy are offering fellowships, certificates, or training in pharmacoeconomics or health economics and outcomes research.

    The field of health economics and outcomes research (HEOR) is gaining more traction as the health-care system moves to a more value-based care structure. The move means that new educational opportunities are opening for pharmacists.

    Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) School of Pharmacy in Richmond, VA, is the latest school to offer a fellowship in pharmacoeconomics and health outcomes research (PEOR).

    The school has partnered with Indivior, a specialty pharmaceutical company, to offer a two-year post-doctoral fellowship. The fellowship is designed to give the recipient experience in both an academic and pharmaceutical industry setting.

    “It’s getting more and more important for the pharmaceutical industry--or actually for anybody in health care--to justify the value of whatever services or products they provide, and so there’s a need for people who are trained in the methods of doing that,” said Norman V. Carroll, PhD, Professor of Pharmacoeconomics and Health Outcomes for the School of Pharmacy at VCU.

    The fellow will spend much of the first year at VCU and most of the second year at Indivior, Carroll said, with substantial integration with both partners throughout the program.

    “At Indivior, fellows will learn more about applying PEOR principles to the development of pharmaceutical products. They will participate in company PEOR research projects like cost effectiveness, cost-benefit, and patient-reported outcomes studies,” said Susan Learned, MD, PharmD, PhD, Senior Vice President of Global Clinical Development at Indivior.

    The goal of the program is to prepare the fellow to be able to do pharmacoeconomics and outcomes research in government, industry or academia.

    Learned said that for students to be successful in conducting health technology assessments, they will need to have strong PEOR methodological rigor, as well as a practical and in-depth understanding of pharmaceutical drug development, delivery, and reimbursement processes.

    “This partnership between industry and academia allows Indivior to support VCU in achieving our common goal of advancing health outcomes research to ensure patient access to quality and cost-effective therapies,” she said.

    Health economics and outcomes research is the assessing or evaluating the value of a given drug or intervention on the health-care system.

    “Whenever you are looking at adoption of a new intervention, be it a drug or a surgery or any other thing you can think of in health care or even beyond health care, you want to look at two sides: basically the additional cost and the additional benefit of that treatment,” said Richard Wilke, PhD, Chief Science Officer for the International Society of Pharmacoeconomics and Outcomes Research (ISPOR).

    The cost can include things like the drug’s list price, but it can also include the amount of physician care or length of a hospital stay involved in an intervention or treatment. On the benefits side, researchers assess what improvements are likely to occur in the average patient under a given treatment relative to standard care.

    “You compare the additional benefits to the additional costs and you see how much the additional benefit is going to cost my health-care system or my pocket book,” Wilke said.

    Although the industry got its start about 20 years ago—ISPOR was started in 1995—HEOR is becoming even more important in the era of value-based care.

    “As our health-care spending grows faster than our GDP, it gets more and more attention and we are making more and more trade-offs to pay for health care. So the importance of knowing what the right trade-offs to make and what health care to pay for relies on really understanding the value of care,” Wilke said.
    ISPOR has more than 20,000 members with nearly 100 chapters across the world. “We have really seen an exponential growth,” Wilke said.

    Jill Sederstrom
    Jill Sederstrom is a Contributing Editor


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