The Drug and Therapeutics Committees (sometimes also called Medicines Advisory Committees or Pharmacy and Therapeutics Committees) that operate in hospitals, health services and related settings are often profoundly influential, charged with stewardship of safe, effective and cost-effective use of medicines in the organisations. The ramifications of decisions made by these committees are far-reaching, in some cases influencing the choice of medicines where lives are at stake, in others impacting upon the expenditure of millions of dollars. The stakes are high. Unsurprisingly, these committees often rely upon expert advice. In a recent discussion published in the JAMA, the “halo effect” that can operate in this context is discussed, and the ramifications are eye-catching.
The expert halo effect, is essentially characterized by the assumption of infallibility of an assigned expert. In medicine, non-experts often look to experts to influence and guide decisions, assuming that experts have specialised knowledge and experience. However, if the knowledge is based on personal experience and opinion, it is possible that the resultant decision making may be sub-optimal or perhaps even hazardous. This thought provoking opinion piece should be compulsory reading for anyone involved in a DTAC – the paper can be viewed here.