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U.S. report

AstraZeneca to analyze chronic illness using EHRs

Drugmaker AstraZeneca and health insurance company WellPoint’s HealthCore unit are partnering to conduct “real-world” studies by analyzing electronic health records and other data to determine the most effective and economical treatments for chronic illnesses and other common diseases.

The companies plan to analyze how drugs used today are working in a number of disease areas, but will place an emphasis on chronic diseases. The studies will rely on data culled from electronic medical records, claims information, and patient surveys. HealthCore databases combine medical, pharmacy, laboratory results, and other information drawn from 36 million enrollees in local Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans.

The companies say that examining such data can show a drug’s impact on such things as hospital length of stay, re-admissions, overall health status, cost of care and other key evidence-based outcomes. It also could point to the areas in greatest need of new therapies to treat and prevent disease. The companies did not disclose financial terms of their agreement.

The collaboration, they say, reflects the growing demand among doctors, payors and policymakers for clinical and cost effectiveness data through comparative effectiveness research taken from real-world experience. In the emerging era of personalized medicine, it could also help discern why certain drugs are effective in some people but not others.

“We are seeking to answer a fundamental question with this research: How can we improve overall patient health while lowering the total cost of care – especially in the treatment of chronic diseases?” says James Blasetto, AstraZeneca’s vice president of U.S. strategic development. “In doing so, the research will help drive the development and delivery of medicines with clear value to patients and payors, creating an opportunity to change the focus of the healthcare conversation from cost to value.”

Under a four-year partnership, the companies will conduct studies using EHRs, claims information and patient surveys. All data involved in the initiative will be de-identified. The data will come from about 36 million WellPoint members and a number of regional Blue Cross Blue Shield plans.

The collaboration is part of a push toward comparative effectiveness research to determine what courses of treatment work best and are most cost effective for chronic diseases and other illnesses.

The partnership’s findings will be made available to the public, according to the companies. They hope to expand their partnership to include hospitals and other organizations.

Posted February 10, 2011