Ever wonder why millions of dollars in research and the valuable time of countless really smart people were poured into developing a drug for Restless Legs Syndrome, a quasi-condition that amounts to wanting to squirm sometimes (hey, I've got that)?Or why, for depression, you can take Celexa, Lexapro, Luvox, Paxil, Prozac, Zoloft, Wellbutrin, and/or Effexor without really knowing which one works, or whether talk therapy would work just as well?It's because thus far there hasn't been a mandate for objective tests that compare the effectiveness of different drugs and medical treatments. The stimulus bill, however, sets aside $1.1 billion for just that purpose. From the New York Times:"The money will be immediately available to the Health and Human Services Department but can be spent over several years. Some money will be used for systematic reviews of published scientific studies, and some will be used for clinical trials making head-to-head comparisons of different treatments.For many years, the government has regulated drugs and devices and supported biomedical research, but the goal was usually to establish if a particular treatment was safe and effective, not if it was better than the alternatives."Pfizer, in an apparent reaction to this news, has already cancelled two drugs that were in the later stages of development because, as the company said, "it was considered unlikely that either compound would provide meaningful benefit to patients beyond the current standard of care."Critics of the plan say that it will "put the government in the middle of the doctor-patient relationship." They're worried, of course, because that space is currently occupied by drugmakers and their huge bags of marketing money.Picture from Flickr user erix!