National Consumers League

NCL health policy updates | Health Advisory Council Newsletter | 2019 Q1

NCL health policy at work

Script Your Future Medication Adherence Team Challenge

In January, NCL launched the eighth annual Medication Adherence Team Challenge. From January 21 through March 22, inter-professional teams—including student pharmacists, doctors, nurses, and others—implemented outreach activities in their communities to raise awareness and improve understanding about medication adherence, using Script Your Future. 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 about the importance of medication adherence. Stay tuned for NCL’s announcement of this year’s winners in May.

Vaccine advocacy 

NCL is a strong supporter of vaccines and works to dispel the myths about vaccine safety and educate consumers about the importance of vaccines in protecting themselves, their families, and their communities. This quarter, NCL has been actively engaged in the vaccine policy arena. NCL submitted comments to the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) urging the Committee to maintain its recommendation for the pneumococcal vaccine for adults ages 65+.

In response to the measles outbreak, NCL renewed its call for legislation requiring child vaccinations.

Finally, NCL joined the Adult Vaccine Access Coalition’s (AVAC) comments on the CMS 2020 Medicare Advantage and Part D Advance Notice Part II and Draft Call Letter. The comments urge Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D plans to place vaccines on the no cost-sharing or low cost-sharing tiers; support the flu Star Rating measure; request inclusion of the 4-vaccine adult composite in the Star Ratings; and support Medication Therapy Management (MTM), which increases adult vaccination rates.       

Counterfeit drugs and importation 

NCL continues to have a strong focus on counterfeit drugs. On January 14, NCL issued a statement on drug importation legislation introduced in Congress. NCL expressed concern that the legislation would open the U.S. market to a flood of counterfeit and/or substandard drugs, putting patient health and safety at risk. Rather than considering misguided importation proposals, NCL encouraged Congress to strengthen our drug supply chain and pursue other strategies to ensure the affordability and accessibility of safe and effective prescription drugs.  

On January 31, NCL cosponsored the Partnership For Safe Medicines’ Congressional briefings on counterfeit drugs. At the briefings, victims of counterfeit medicines and their families, local law enforcement, former DEA agents, and other experts in the fight against counterfeit drugs discussed the widespread impact fake drugs are having on communities and the enormous burden the problem places on regulators who are responsible for ensuring public safety.

Counterfeit drugs consumer education campaign

NCL appreciates the support of Eli Lilly, PhRMA, Pfizer, Allergan, and Gilead for NCL’s Counterfeit Drugs Consumer Education Campaign. We anticipate launching the campaign in the fall of 2019, and are still seeking additional campaign partners. Please contact Karin Bolte at karinb@nclnet.org for information about how your organization can join this resource-rich platform to educate consumers on making smart decisions. 

Alliance for Advancing Women’s Health

On February 4, the Journal of Women’s Health published a consensus paper on the barriers to better female sexual health authored by several of NCL’s partners from the Alliance for Advancing Women’s Health (AAWH). Titled “Female Sexual Health: Barriers to Optimal Outcomes and a Roadmap for Improved Patient–Clinician Communications,” the paper details ways to overcome the barriers currently impeding patient–clinician communication about women’s sexual health. The publication will be the scientific foundation for the clinical and consumer resources that AAWH plans to develop this year to facilitate patient-clinician conversations on this topic. As a co-chair of AAWH, NCL will be spearheading the development of the patient tools.

Fighting the opioid epidemic

Continuing our focus on the opioid epidemic, on February 6 in Columbus, Ohio, NCL’s Health Policy and Programs Associate Nissa Shaffi (right) joined Ohio state legislators and allies at the Ohio Statehouse for the launch of Rx Abuse Leadership Initiative (RALI) – Ohio, a broad-based coalition of more than 2 dozen local, state, and national organizations dedicated to finding solutions to end the opioid crisis in the state. NCL is committed to partnering with RALI coalitions across the country to educate consumers about the safe use and disposal of opioids and resources available to support addiction prevention, treatment, and recovery services.   

FDA appropriations and Commissioner Gottlieb’s resignation 

Each year, NCL advocates for a solid base of budget authority appropriations for the FDA. On February 13 and March 19, NCL participated in the Alliance for a Stronger FDA’s Capitol Hill Advocacy Days. NCL met with staff of members of the House and Senate Agriculture/FDA Appropriations Subcommittees, including the office of Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Ranking Member of the subcommittee. Altogether, Alliance teams met with over 70 Congressional offices to advocate for additional investment in the FDA that will result in substantial added value to the American public.

NCL also expressed its disappointment at the resignation of FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, and urged the next FDA Commissioner to put the interests of consumers first by maintaining the agency’s strong oversight of the safety and effectiveness of drugs and medical devices.

Protecting Medicare

On January 25, NCL joined with over 50 organizations in urging CMS not to finalize the proposed changes to the Medicare Part D six protected classes of drugs (anticonvulsants, antidepressants, antineoplastics, antipsychotics, antiretrovirals, and immunosuppressants). Led by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, the letter expresses concern that the proposed changes could result in cost-shifting to beneficiaries and could jeopardize vulnerable beneficiaries’ access to medically-necessary prescription drugs.