The Centers for Education and Research on Therapeutics (CERTs) demonstration program is a national initiative to conduct research and provide education that advances the optimal use of therapeutics (i.e., drugs, medical devices, and biological products). The program consists of seven research centers and a Coordinating Center and is administered as a cooperative agreement by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), in consultation with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The CERTs receive funds from both public and private sources, with AHRQ providing core financial support. The research conducted by the CERTs program has three major aims:

  • To increase awareness of both the uses and risks of new drugs and drug combinations, biological products and devices, as well as of mechanisms to improve their safe and effective use.
  • To provide clinical information to patients and consumers, health care providers, pharmacists, pharmacy (HMOs) and health care delivery systems, insurers and government agencies.
  • To improve quality while reducing cost of care by increasing the appropriate use of drugs, biological products and devices and by preventing their adverse effects and consequences of these effects (such as unnecessary hospitalizations).

Since 1992, AHRQ has funded studies focused on patient outcomes associated with pharmaceutical therapy. Through this Pharmaceutical Outcomes Program, these studies have addressed many important questions regarding the management of drug prescribing.

The CERTs concept grew out of recognition that, while pharmaceuticals and other medical products improve the lives of many patients, underuse, overuse, adverse events and medical errors may cause serious impairment to patient health.
The following gaps in knowledge remain:

  • Limited comparative information exists on the risks, benefits, and interactions of both new and older agents.
  • Health professionals need guidance on the appropriate, cost-effective use of therapeutics that will, in turn, lead to improved outcomes, error reduction and prevention of adverse events.

Because of AHRQ's demonstrated expertise in pharmaceutical outcomes research, it was given responsibility for administering the CERTs demonstration program authorized by Congress as part of the Food and Drug Administration Modernization Act of 1997 (Public Law 105-115).

AHRQ awarded grants to support the first four centers in September 1999, and the full CERTs program was established as part of the Healthcare Research and Quality Act of 1999 (Public Law 106-129).

By September 2000, AHRQ had funded three additional centers, bringing the total to seven. In 2006, AHRQ funded 4 new centers bringing the total number of centers to 11. Each center focuses on therapies used in a particular patient population or therapeutic area. These eleven centers, a Coordinating Center, a Steering Committee and numerous partnerships with public and private organizations now make up the CERTs program.

CERTs Research Centers

The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and Baylor College of Medicine,*
Houston, TX:
Risk and health communication; patient, consumer, and professional education; health decision-making and decision support; therapeutic adherence

Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC:
Therapies for disorders of the heart and blood vessels

HMO Research Network, Boston, MA:
Use, safety, and effectiveness studies of therapeutics, using health plans that serve defined populations

Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey,* New Brunswick, NJ:
Therapies for mental health

University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, AL:
Therapies for musculoskeletal disorders

University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ:
Detection and prevention of adverse drug interactions

University of Iowa,* Iowa City, IA:
Therapies for older adults and the effects of aging

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC:
Therapies for children

University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA:
Therapies for infection; reduction in antibiotic resistance

Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, TN:
Prescription drug use in Medicaid and veteran populations

Weill Medical College of Cornell University,* New York, NY:
Therapeutic medical devices

*New center as of April 2006

Patient Education

Resources to information important to you, the consumer.

View all Patient Education Resources