Pharmacy Students Team Up With Schaeffer Center for Research Projects

This summer, four PharmD candidates collaborated with faculty at the Leonard D. Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics to complete unique research projects focusing on health economics.

Manan Shah worked with Associate Professor Neeraj Sood on the project, “Understanding Treatment for Child Diarrhea in India.” “My project aims to better understand how health providers in India treat child diarrhea – one of the leading causes of death in children under 5 – and how treatment differs between the public and private sector,” explains Shah.

Shah traveled to Gujarat, India to conduct interviews with health workers from both private and public facilities. The data collected from these interviews will be used by Sood to analyze and prepare policy recommendations and interventions that can potentially improve treatment of child diarrhea.

Sood also worked with Tadeh Vartanian on his project, “Show Me the Money: Tracing of Funds in Pharmaceutical Markets.” Vartanian analyzed U.S. retail pharmacy prescription drug sales in the 2012 fiscal year, and found that patients have out-of-pocket costs of $49,239 million, with the majority of the remaining $236,449 million (82.8% of drug spending) paid by health benefit entities such as Medicare, Medicaid, private health plans and other agencies.

“With $81.81 for every $100 spent going to the various players in the pharmaceutical market, it is important to understand the contributions of each sector,” says Vartanian.

Ying Long collaborated with Sood and Associate Professor Geoffrey Joyce on the project, ““Prescription Drug Prices Variation: Same Prescription, Different Prices.” The purpose of her study is to reveal the extent of prescription drug price variation within the same neighborhood, and expose the information barriers on price patients face when shopping for prescription drugs.

“In the healthcare market, patients should be provided with sufficient resources to price shop for prescription drugs and healthcare services for the best deal,” says Long. “Policy on healthcare price transparency needs improvement to make healthcare more affordable and accessible for vulnerable populations.”

Barbara Blaylock worked with Research Associate Professor Julie Zissimopoulos on the project, “Microsimulation Validation Methods and Applications to Health Policy Research.” Blaylock notes that validation and uncertainty analysis are not frequently conducted or included in the published results of microsimulations – used to aid health policy decisions worldwide by forecasting health status and economic outcomes at an individual level – due to the large amount of resources and time that are often required for the analyses.

“The primary objective of uncertainty analysis research using the Future Elderly Model, one example of microsimulation, is to obtain confidence intervals around the point estimates of health outcome prevalence projected into the future,” explains Blaylock. “Research into health microsimulation validation approaches will aid microsimulation practitioners interested in similar validation techniques.”

These types of projects are made possible through the School of Pharmacy’s faculty based at the Leonard D. Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics, a partnership between the School of Pharmacy and the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy. The mission of the USC Schaeffer Center is to conduct rigorous research, develop health policy leaders, and broadly communicate solutions to promote health, well-being, and value in healthcare delivery.