Sebastian Schneeweiss, M.D., Sc.D.

May 4, 2010


Sebastian Schneeweiss, M.D., Sc.D., is associate professor of medicine, Harvard Medical School; associate professor, Department of Epidemiology, Harvard School of Public Health; and director for Drug Evaluation and Outcomes Research and vice chief, Division of Pharmacoepidemiology and Pharmacoeconomics, Department of Medicine, Brigham & Women’s Hospital. His research focuses on pharmacoepidemiology and pharmaceutical outcomes research, with a particular interest in the comparative safety and effectiveness of pharmaceuticals and biotech products, and on the evaluation of programs to reduce risks of or restructure coverage for medications. An important part of Dr. Schneeweiss’s teaching is the development and testing of new pharmacoepidemiologic methods that rely on large computerized claims databases.

Dr. Schneeweiss received an M.D. from the University of Munich and an M.S. and Sc.D. from the Harvard School of Public Health under Drs. Alexander Walker and Stephen Soumerai. In addition to his appointments at Harvard and Brigham & Women’s Hospital, Dr. Schneeweiss is principal investigator for the Brigham & Women’s Hospital DEcIDE Research Center (Developing Evidence to Inform Decisions about Effectiveness), which is funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, and co-chair of the Methods Core of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration-funded Mini Sentinel project (Dr. Platt, principal investigator). He is also currently working on several research projects funded by the National Institutes of Health that use quasi-experimental and randomized designs to focus on the comparative safety and effectiveness of medications and the clinical and economic consequences of drug reimbursement restrictions. 

Dr. Schneeweiss served as principal investigator on an HCFO study examining changes in drug utilization under Medicare Part D drug coverage. He and his team assessed changes in prescription drug use among elderly patients with no prescription drug coverage before Medicare Part D. Their study was designed to inform ongoing improvements to Part D coverage. 

The research team’s analysis of this large-scale natural experiment, published in Health Affairs, showed that implementation of the Medicare Part D benefit was associated with a substantial reduction in out-of-pocket spending for prescription drugs and a meaningful increase in use of selected essential medications, including statins, clopidogrel, and warfarin, among patients who enrolled in Part D in 2006. The team found that patients who elected Part D were more likely to use essential medications that are likely to result in better health outcomes. However, a sizable proportion of sicker patients reached the coverage gap in the first year of coverage and experienced a sharp drop in the use of the same drugs, which may result in worse health outcomes. Dr. Schneeweiss and his team suggest that if a goal of the Part D benefit is to provide seniors with efficient access to highly effective prescription drugs, then efforts to close the coverage gap—coupled with formulary designs that better differentiate between the value and effectiveness of covered medications—may help optimize coverage and seniors’ health. “It is satisfying to see movement in this direction, through the new health reform law,” says Schneeweiss.