Research and education programs in therapeutics that combine the data, organizational capabilities, and expertise of several managed care organizations working in concert can serve an important role when a single organization is not large enough to address a question of interest, when diversity in populations or delivery systems is required, and when it is necessary to establish consistency of results in different settings. Nine members of the HMO Research Network, a consortium of health maintenance organizations (HMOs) that perform public domain research, have formed a Center for Education and Research on Therapeutics (CERT), sponsored by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, to conduct multicenter research in therapeutics. The CERT uses a distributed organizational model with shared leadership, in which data reside at the originating organization until they are needed to support a specific study. Extraction of data from the host computer systems, and some manipulation of data, is typically accomplished through computer programs that are developed centrally, then modified for use at each site. For complex studies, pooled analysis files are created by a coordinating center, and then analysed by investigators throughout the HMOs. It is also possible to contact HMO members when necessary. This multicenter environment has several benefits, addressing: (1) a wide array of questions about the safety and effectiveness of therapeutics, (2) the impact of efforts to change clinicians' and patients' behavior, and (3) pharmacoeconomic and pharmacogenetic questions.