AHRQ Tools Used By Northeastern University To Teach How To Assess Pharmacy Evidence

Comparative Effectiveness
July 2011

Northeastern University (NU) School of Pharmacy in Boston uses 11 modules from AHRQ's "Training Modules for Systematic Reviews Methods Guide" in a required class for its Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) students. The course, "Economic Evaluation of Pharmaceuticals and Pharmacy Practice," is taught during the students' third professional year. It is intended to provide an understanding of the principles of economic evaluation and how published evidence can be used to critically evaluate pharmaceuticals and pharmaceutical care in a variety of settings. The course format includes lectures, readings, small seminars, online modules, and a group project.

Roger A. Edwards, ScD, Assistant Professor in NU's Department of Pharmacy Practice, School of Pharmacy and Department of Health Sciences, adopted the 11 AHRQ modules in designing the new course. The modules are Topic Refinement, Study Eligibility Criteria, Analytic Frameworks, Searching for Relevant Literature, When to Select Observational Studies, Assessing Applicability, Assessing Quality of Individual Studies, Data Extraction, Reporting the Review, Grading Strength of Evidence, and Presentation of Findings.

Edwards notes, "I wanted pharmacists to gain greater familiarity with the standards for comparative effectiveness research and high-quality economic evaluations so that they can work more effectively with other health professionals when they encounter comparative reviews of pharmaceuticals and pharmaceutical-related services. I believe that knowledge of best practices for comparative analyses in health care should be required of all health professionals."

Using online modules, Edwards presents the AHRQ modules to his students. Students are required to complete the modules as a pass/fail assignment. The online continuing medical education questions provided by AHRQ then serve as practice materials for multiple-choice questions for the course midterm exam. In requiring the PharmD students to complete the AHRQ modules, Edwards explains, "It is important for pharmacists to be aware of existing resources for ongoing professional development after graduation that extend beyond their traditional professional continuing educational resources."

Finally, the students apply what they learn in the modules to a group project, which is evaluated partly on how aligned the student projects are with the AHRQ modules' standards for systematic reviews. Students have the opportunity to compile clinical and economic evidence in a monograph/dossier for a product of their choice or to conduct their own economic evaluation using decision-analytic techniques. The 2011 group projects were presented in a scientific poster session for the School of Pharmacy faculty and NU community. Several of the student groups prepared abstracts for various conferences and articles for peer-reviewed publication in medical journals.

The NU School of Pharmacy follows a comprehensive disease management curriculum approach in integrating economic evaluation and health technology assessment considerations into the various clinical disease areas. A wide range of studies is used in critical appraisal, including clinical trials, prospective observational studies, retrospective database analyses, and chart reviews.

For more information on the "Training Modules for Systematic Reviews Methods Guide," go to: http://www.effectivehealthcare.ahrq.gov/index.cfm/guides-cmece-and-other-resources-for-clinicians/cmece-activities/#ahrq.

Impact Case Study Identifier: 
AHRQ Product(s): Effective Health Care Program
Topics(s): Academic Curricula
Geographic Location: Massachusetts
Implementer: Northeastern University School of Pharmacy
Date: 07/01/2011
Page last reviewed October 2014