The appropriate use of medications is a central aspect of health care. Each year, basic science research and biotechnology produce new treatments which hold the promise of major clinical benefit. However, these interventions also carry risks which must be rigorously measured and evaluated against the treatment’s efficacy. Drugs are also a growing component of health care expenditures, and more attention is being drawn to the relation between the costs of medication and their benefits.

In 1998, the BWH Department of Medicine created the Division of Pharmacoepidemiology and Pharmacoeconomics to facilitate a wide range of activities related to the use and outcomes of medications, addressed from a variety of interdisciplinary perspectives. Its mission is to bring together the various specialties of medicine, epidemiology, biostatistics, health services research, and the social sciences to evaluate the effectiveness of existing and new prescription drugs in relation to their risks and costs; to study how medications are used by physicians and patients; and to develop methods to optimize prescription drug use.

Research goals

  • Using very large populations of patients, study the use of specific medications and clinical outcomes to identify and quantify adverse events and desired clinical outcomes;
  • Develop advanced methods in epidemiology, biostatistics, and informatics to detect and evaluate important signals of potential drug safety problems, as well as to compare the therapeutic results of alternative treatment strategies;
  • Define patterns of medication prescribing by physicians, and use (compliance) by patients;
  • Analyze the influence of health system factors (policies, coverage and reimbursement differences) on the quality of medication use;
  • Design, implement, and test innovative programs to improve the appropriateness of prescribing by physicians, and medication use by patients.