ICER Hires More Human Shields For Rationing

  • by: Robert Goldberg |
  • 07/22/2016
As I have previously discussed,  ICER's initiative to revisit the representatitiveness and scientific validity of his QALY based assessments of drug prices and access is really a crude political makeover.  The recent appointment of so-called patient and consumer advocates to his board is example of ICER advertising itself as becoming more open and patient centered when the truth is much different:

"The Institute for Clinical and Economic Review (ICER) has announced the appointment of two new members to its Governance Board. Ellen Andrews, PhD and Frances Visco, JD both join the Governance Board with extensive experience in patient and consumer advocacy....
“These two leaders bring to ICER’s Governance Board tremendous skills honed through years of experience fighting for access to high-quality health care and for the evidence that patients need to participate fully in their health care decisions,” noted ICER’s President Steven D. Pearson, MD, MSc. “This is part of our long-standing plan to augment this perspective among the members of our Governance and Advisory Boards as ICER grows. I know that Ellen and Fran are superbly prepared to join with other Board members in assuring that ICER’s strategic direction and all our efforts are informed by the patient voice.”

They are superbly prepared if by preparation one means that they share Pearson's twisted use of QALYs and budget caps to set drug prices and limit access.

Dr. Andrews was already an advisor to ICER and has written in defense of it's current approach.  She has also spouted the party line that insurance companies don't get to vote on ICER decisions (they just fund the organization).   

She has also written favorably about Canadian drug price controls and was part of a working group tasked with finding ways states and provinces could could control drug prices.  

Fran Visco is also a supporter of using longer, larger clinical trials to slow down access to new medicines.  

She is opposed to expanding compassionate use pathways, claiming: The problem is that the expectations for these drugs are unreasonably high. The public has this unrealistic faith in what these new drugs are going to do."

Here's what she said about accelerated approval: "The F.D.A. should learn a lesson and re-evaluate the accelerated approval process itself. The goal is to save lives, not rush to get drugs to the public."   She also believes that "public policy should discourage access to investigational drugs
outside of clinical trials. "  So much for access.

Visco also support the reimportation of drugs into the US from overseas.  She claims that drug importation can be "adequately regulated and can provide immediate cost savings for consumers."  As long as you don't mind counterfeit cancer drugs such as fake Avastin. 

I have no problem with Pearson packing his boards and committees with true believers or getting financial support from insurers.  But don't claim ICER is an objective and trusted organization that uses independent assessments to " evaluate the value of costly, new interventions – whether they are worth what they charge."   When you rely upon the QALY and budget caps to set prices across all disease areas, it leads to price controls and rationing.    Andrews and Visco believe in both, as does Pearson.   Again, ICER can meet and talk all it wants.  But it is not patient-centered and it is not trusted or independent.   Andrews and Visco are just another couple of human shields to protect Pearson  while he runs his anti-patient enterprise

This latest move is another example of why we should let ICER melt away and develop a method of measuring value that reflects the needs and preferences of of patients, their families and communities. 


Center for Medicine in the Public Interest is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization promoting innovative solutions that advance medical progress, reduce health disparities, extend life and make health care more affordable, preventive and patient-centered. CMPI also provides the public, policymakers and the media a reliable source of independent scientific analysis on issues ranging from personalized medicine, food and drug safety, health care reform and comparative effectiveness.

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