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Staff (Retired)
One Aim Unites DIA Participants: Enhancing Life Through Science

A common thread links every person attending this week’s annual meeting of the Drug Information Association (DIA). From pharmaceutical organizations to software manufacturers, we are all in the business of improving the quality of life. It doesn’t matter who you talk with, what slogan they use in their booth or what part of the life sciences spectrum they represent – we strive to improve health and mitigate pain and suffering. At one point on that spectrum, like a sequence of genes on a chromosome, is the work of providing patients with a means to alleviate their suffering. Patients are placed on a protocol to treat their illness. And in most cases, the protocol differs from patient to patient, doctor to doctor. In the end, it is a story of varying approaches, varying results. This is where the current hot topic of “comparative effectiveness” comes into play.

Researchers from many organizations, including the American Medical Institute, have studied and written about this concept. And at this DIA gathering, a number of presentations have focused on what it means and why it is so important. Comparative effectiveness is simply the ability to demonstrate the effectiveness of one strategy over another for a certain condition, resulting in the ability of doctors and patients to make smart health decisions based on sound scientific evidence. That may sound like a simple and reasonable thing to do. But it is not. There are differing views about every aspect of comparative effectiveness, from its definition to how research results should be applied.

But one thing is certain. To understand the research results, you must have the proper analysis tools. When I walk the aisles of the DIA exhibitor floor, I see a number of companies that are taking on this challenge. They are offering the tools to gather data from multiple studies at one time, and then to slice and dice, compare and contrast, and finally to suggest the best approach for the treatment of disease. Data analysis may not seem exotic, but in this case it is the key to improving the quality of our lives. Without an understanding of the data, we are left to a “this is how we always do it” approach to treatment.

I am awestruck and amazed at the work our industry undertakes. It is an honorable endeavor. And when we create tools that allow us to better understand the data that our work produces, and then to apply that understanding to help our fellow man, it is a good thing.

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