National Consumers League

NCL health policy updates | Health Advisory Council Newsletter | 2018 Q2

NCL health policy at work

Script Your Future Medication Adherence Team Challenge

In May, NCL announced the winners of the 7th annual Medication Adherence Team Challenge, a competition that encourages health profession students and faculty across the nation to develop creative ideas, events, and initiatives to raise public awareness about the importance of medication adherence.

This year, the Script Your Future National Challenge Awards went to the University of Charleston School of Pharmacy and the University of the Sciences Philadelphia College of Pharmacy. The three focused awards were won by Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine (LECOM) (health disparities), Touro University California College of Pharmacy (media outreach), and the University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy (creative inter-professional team event). NCL also honored Pacific University School of Pharmacy with the Rookie Award. 

Hundreds of future health care professionals from 73 participating educational institutions held more than 350 events in 17 states, counseled more than 14,000 patients, and reached 1.5 million consumers nationwide. Since the Challenge began in 2011, more than 15,000 future healthcare professionals have directly counseled nearly 65,000 patients and reached more than 24.5 million consumers. 

Protect Our Care/Big Tent Coalition and Short-Term Limited-Duration Insurance

As part of the Protect Our Care/Big Tent Coalition, NCL remains actively engaged in the nationwide effort to protect the Affordable Care Act, Medicare, and Medicaid. In April, NCL submitted comments and joined a group letter opposing the Trump Administration’s Short-Term Limited-Duration Insurance (STLDI) Proposed Rule. The proposed rule would rescind restrictions on short-term plans, thereby allowing insurers to offer junk insurance policies to millions of consumers that fail to meet their healthcare needs. STLDI plans exclude coverage for critically important healthcare services; vary premium rates by gender, health status, and age; and put individuals and families at significant financial risk. In addition, allowing the expansion of these types of plans would undermine the individual market by pulling healthy individuals away and leaving an older, sicker risk pool behind. Many who rely on comprehensive coverage – including women, older adults, and people with chronic conditions – would be left without affordable, comprehensive coverage options. 

Fighting the opioid epidemic

On April 26 in Annapolis, NCL joined allies for the launch of the Rx Abuse Leadership Initiative (RALI), a Maryland-based coalition of more than a dozen local, state, and national organizations dedicated to finding solutions to end the opioid crisis in the state. At the event, NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg laid out the broad range of options for the safe disposal of opioids, including medication disposal programs at pharmacies and other collection sites, Drug Take-Back Days, in-home disposal methods, and other options. Noting that “consumers want to dispose of their medications properly, they just need to understand how to do so,” Greenberg expressed NCL’s commitment to partnering with RALI to educate consumers about the safe use and disposal of opioids and resources available to support addiction treatment and recovery.

Compounding

NCL continues to be a strong supporter of the Compounding Quality Act and FDA’s appropriate oversight of the practice of compounding. While it’s important to preserve access to compounded drugs for patients who have a medical need for them, it is critical to protect patients from poor quality compounding. At FDA’s June 19th Compounding Listening Session, NCL joined our consumer colleagues in urging FDA to pay particular attention when the state interest is weak (e.g., lots of interstate distribution) or there’s a large volume of compounded drugs being shipped interstate (so any error affects more patients).          

FDA appropriations

Each year, NCL advocates for a solid base of budget authority appropriations for the FDA. On April 25, Karin Bolte, NCL’s Senior Director of Health Policy, participated in the Alliance for a Stronger FDA’s Capitol Hill Advocacy Day. Altogether, 8 Alliance teams met with 60 Congressional offices to advocate for additional investment in the FDA that will result in substantial added value to the American public. In June, NCL joined an Alliance sign-on letter urging Appropriators to support the higher levels of the House version of the Ag/FDA appropriations bill, as well as the Senate’s proposals for certain accounts--including critical funding for food safety that was not in the House bill and larger increases in monies for generic drugs and combating opioid abuse.         

Counterfeit drugs

This quarter, NCL has had a strong focus on counterfeit drugs. On June 7, NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg gave a Keynote Speech at the Partnership For Safe Medicines 2018 Interchange. The event brought together policymakers, counterfeit drug victims, pharmaceutical manufacturers, patient advocates, law enforcement, and healthcare professionals to discuss solutions to the deadly impacts that counterfeit drugs are having. The meeting also explored one of the newest public health threats – counterfeit drugs laced with fentanyl. The use of even minute amounts of fentanyl, a highly potent and deadly ingredient, in counterfeit drugs has killed many innocent people who have unwittingly received counterfeit pills from friends. 

On June 27, NCL hosted a panel discussion (video available here) on counterfeit drugs at our Health Advisory Council meeting. At the meeting, NCL provided an overview of our planned Counterfeit Drugs Consumer Education Campaign. Working together, NCL’s Health and Fraud teams will develop consumer education content to be housed at NCL’s Fraud.org. The content will focus on the following elements: 

  1. Examining the threat and sharing real life situations related to the online purchase and sharing of unsafe counterfeit medications;
  2. Redirecting consumers to safe purchasing websites;
  3. Educating consumers on smart purchasing practices and highlighting opportunities for cost savings, including practical tools, tips, and websites; and
  4. Providing a channel for consumers to access enforcement bodies such as the FDAMedWatch, and other appropriate resources, in order for them to report their personal medication concern to the proper authorities.

NCL is still seeking partners for our Counterfeit Drugs Consumer Education Campaign. Please contact Charlotte Gray, NCL’s Director of Development, at charlotteg@nclnet.org about how your organization can join this resource-rich platform to educate consumers on making smart decisions and improve understanding about how to avoid the scourge of counterfeit drugs.