Open Access Correspondence

Methods for the Drug Effectiveness Review Project

Marian S McDonagh1*, Daniel E Jonas23, Gerald Gartlehner47, Alison Little5, Kim Peterson1, Susan Carson1, Mark Gibson5 and Mark Helfand6

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Medical Informatics and Clinical Epidemiology and Evidence-based Practice Center, School of Medicine, Oregon Health & Science University, Portland, OR, USA

2 Department of Medicine, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC, USA

3 Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research, Chapel Hill, NC, USA

4 International, Research Triangle Park, NC, USA

5 Oregon Health & Science University Center for Evidence Based Policy, Portland, OR, USA

6 Veteran’s Affairs Medical Center and Evidence-based Practice Center, Portland, OR, USA

7 Danube University, Krems, Austria

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BMC Medical Research Methodology 2012, 12:140  doi:10.1186/1471-2288-12-140

Published: 12 September 2012


The Drug Effectiveness Review Project was initiated in 2003 in response to dramatic increases in the cost of pharmaceuticals, which lessened the purchasing power of state Medicaid budgets. A collaborative group of state Medicaid agencies and other organizations formed to commission high-quality comparative effectiveness reviews to inform evidence-based decisions about drugs that would be available to Medicaid recipients. The Project is coordinated by the Center for Evidence-based Policy (CEbP) at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU), and the systematic reviews are undertaken by the Evidence-based Practice Centers (EPCs) at OHSU and at the University of North Carolina. The reviews adhere to high standards for comparative effectiveness reviews. Because the investigators have direct, regular communication with policy-makers, the reports have direct impact on policy and decision-making, unlike many systematic reviews. The Project was an innovator of methods to involve stakeholders and continues to develop its methods in conducting reviews that are highly relevant to policy-makers. The methods used for selecting topics, developing key questions, searching, determining eligibility of studies, assessing study quality, conducting qualitative and quantitative syntheses, rating the strength of evidence, and summarizing findings are described. In addition, our on-going interactions with the policy-makers that use the reports are described.