American College of Physicians: Internal Medicine — Doctors for Adults ®


Policy briefs

From the December ACP Observer, copyright 2005 by the American College of Physicians.

ACP leaders present physician statements on Capitol Hill

Last month, ACP representatives joined those from other major national physician societies to meet with key lawmakers on Capitol Hill. ACP leaders provided lawmakers with first-hand accounts from primary care physicians on how looming payment cuts will adversely affect them, their patients and their communities.

College President C. Anderson Hedberg, FACP (left), and Lawrence M Phillips, ACP Associate Member (right), are part of a delegation who met with members of Congress on the need for payment reform.

College representatives were joined by officials from the American Academy of Family Physicians and the American Osteopathic Association. The statements from physician members focused on cuts related to the flawed sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula that could take effect Jan. 1, 2006. Eleven leaders from the three national societies met with Congressional staff for key lawmakers.

Group representatives also met with Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), member of the Senate Finance Committee; Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee; and Rep. Michael Bilirakis (R-Fla.), member of the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee.

Leaders of the three groups, which together represent nearly a quarter-million physicians, agreed they received a mixed message from the Hill offices on the prospects for SGR relief. The overall message physician leaders heard was that physicians need to focus their contacts on House members, particularly on Republican representatives who should ask Rep. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), speaker of the House, to include relief from the cuts in legislation before Congress adjourns for the year.

You can access all "In Their Own Words" campaign materials online.

College recommends tighter control of DTC advertising

ACP is advocating that the Food and Drug Administration ban all direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising, claiming that such marketing adversely affects internists' primary patient base: Medicare patients who have several medical problems.

In a statement for the record sent to a recent FDA public hearing, the College said that the FDA should at least strengthen existing voluntary guidelines. The College has voiced opposition to DTC advertising since 1998.

The statement noted that DTC ads often leave patients confused and misinformed, forcing physicians to spend valuable office visit time explaining why a particular drug is inappropriate. That dynamic adds a subtle but chronic adversarial element to the physician-patient relationship, the statement said.

The statement also cited a 2000 Federal Trade Commission report, which found that doctors wrote 25% more prescriptions for the 50 most heavily DTC-advertised drugs, compared with 4.3% more prescriptions for all other drugs combined. Referring to the new Medicare Part D program slated to start Jan. 1, the College noted that if DTC ads continue to generate inappropriate demand and use, they could cost the federal government billions of dollars.

In the statement, the College acknowledged the need for the pharmaceutical industry to market its products. The statement said, however, that such efforts should be directed at increasing awareness among clinicians about new medication therapies, rather than to patients.

The statement also said that drug companies need to find more effective ways to communicate information on untreated conditions and that the government should continue to fund studies to measure the impact of DTC ads.

The statement is online.


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