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Nonprofit Group Ready to Compare Drugs

Kate Traynor

Health plans and plan sponsors with questions about similar drug therapies may soon benefit from research sponsored by a nonprofit organization created to provide objective, evidence-based comparisons of prescription drugs.

RxIntelligence L.L.C., launched in October after four months' delay, plans to sponsor projects that will compare the merits of similar drugs and examine financial and clinical outcomes associated with prescription-drug use. The company said it will also provide safety and efficacy information about drugs recently approved or nearing approval by the Food and Drug Administration. Research reports from the company will be available by subscription, with the exact fee dependent on the size of the buyer, said a spokesperson for RxIntelligence and BlueCross BlueShield Association (BCBSA).

BCBSA spearheaded creation of RxIntelligence, an independent company. At present, RxIntelligence is controlled by a board of directors. Board members are affiliated with the American Academy of Family Physicians, BCBSA, Ingersoll-Rand Co., Kaiser Permanente, and the United Auto Workers.

The spokesperson said that RxIntelligence’s executive director—a pharmacist or a Ph.D.-level scientist with a background in pharmacy—will be appointed later this month.

According to company literature, initial research projects will focus on substitution of generic levothyroxine products, therapeutic issues associated with the use of various proton-pump inhibitors, and the interchangeability of cyclooxygenase-2 inhibitors and traditional nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

Promotional material distributed by RxIntelligence stated that its research reports will be produced by "independent pharmacists, pharmacoeconomists and other related medical professionals." Because the company does not yet have a research staff, the initial projects will be done by contractors chosen by the executive director and board of directors.

The first research reports, said the spokesperson, should be ready for distribution early next year.

Funding for RxIntelligence comes from the companies on its advisory board: AdvancePCS (formerly PCS Health Systems Inc.), Triad USA Inc., Merck-Medco Managed Care L.L.C., the Alliance of Community Health Plans, and Excellus Inc., a provider of Blue Cross and Blue Shield health plans. Eventually, RxIntelligence plans to support all of its research through subscription fees.