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Comparative Effectiveness Research (CER)

What Is Comparative Effectiveness Research?

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) created the Federal Coordinating Council for Comparative Effectiveness Research (CER) in order to promote informed health care decisions.1 Since then, CER has become a greater focus of several Federal agencies, including the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). AHRQ defines CER as a type of health care research that compares the results of one approach for managing a disease to the results of other approaches. CER usually compares two or more types of treatment, such as different drugs, for the same disease. This research is designed to inform health care decisions by providing evidence on the effectiveness, benefits, and harms of different treatment options.2

Comparative effectiveness research can be carried out by:

  1. Conducting systematic reviews that summarize available data on the potential harms and benefits of different interventions and strategies for a specific health condition or population
  2. Conducting research that evaluates two or more interventions or strategies for a specific health condition or population in order to generate new evidence about the effectiveness of the tested interventions or strategies

Another area of research important to CER focuses on effective strategies for the dissemination and implementation of CER so that the findings of this research can be incorporated into practice as quickly as possible.

SAMHSA supports the role of CER in enhancing public understanding about which health care interventions are most effective in different circumstances and with different patients or populations. This support is evident in the work of NREPP. NREPP is a decision-support tool for individuals who are interested in selecting or learning about substance abuse or mental health interventions that have been scientifically tested and that can be readily disseminated to the field. SAMHSA also has funded a study to examine how the results of CER can be effectively packaged, disseminated, and implemented to enhance informed decision making among mental health and substance abuse providers and organizations.

Comparative Effectiveness Research Series

This page provides more information about this SAMHSA study and the resulting series of materials developed by NREPP.