POLICY BRIEFINGS


USPSTF Maintains Mammogram Recommendations


The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has decided to reiterate its 2009 recommendation that women under the age of 50 should wait to start getting mammograms, while women aged 50-74 should only be screened every two years. The Task Force’s reasoning points to evidence that the benefits of such testing do not out weight the risks – citing false positives and overdiagnosis associated with mammograms in younger women. The recommendations are subject to public comment before they are finalized. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires insurers to offer without copays USPSTF “A” or “B” grade recommendations. These grades indicate an endorsement for routine use of a procedure by the Task Force. This year’s draft mammography recommendation for women 50-74 received a “B” grade, while the Task Force’s draft recommendation for women in their 40s received a “C” grade, indicating that the USPSTF is not encouraging doctors to provide the screening. However, the ACA also requires women to be able to access annual mammograms without cost sharing. In a letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) expressed concerns that the Task Force’s recommendations could obstruct this part of the law. “Should the draft recommendation be finalized,” Mikulski writes, “I will actively and aggressively pursue all legislative options available to ensure that women aged 40 and older are able to continue receiving free annual mammograms.” Sen. Mikulski also urged the Secretary to take a public stance against the recommendations. The USPSTF’s announcement arrived the same week that the National Cancer Institute (NCI) released estimates that the number of breast cancers suffered by American women will increase by about 50 percent by 2030. Breast cancers are already the most common form of cancer in the U.S.


House Passes Bill to Decrease Drug Abuse


H.R. 471, the Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act, passed the House early last week. The bipartisan bill would establish clear and consistent enforcement standards and promote collaboration among government agencies, patients, and industry stakeholders to ensure patients have access to controlled substances. The Secretary of HHS, in coordination with the head of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), would be required to submit a report to Congress identifying obstacles to legitimate patient access to these medications, issues with diversion of controlled substances, and how collaboration between agencies and stakeholders can benefit patients and prevent prescription drug abuse. H.R. 471 was authored by Energy and Commerce Committee Vice Chairman Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and Representatives Tom Marino (R-Pa.), Peter Welch (D-Vt.), and Judy Chu (D-Calif.).


PCORI Awards $120 Million in Grants


The Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) announced the approval of $120 million in grants for 34 comparative effectiveness research (CER) studies. $58.5 million will go towards five projects comparing practical clinical treatments, while $61.6 million in funds will be provided to 29 studies examining options for improving outcomes for various conditions. This is the second round of awards to be made through PCORI’s initiative to fund pragmatic clinical studies. Conditions awarded projects are studying include cancer, cardiovascular health, kidney disease, liver disease, mental/behavioral health, multiple/co-morbid chronic conditions, muscular and skeletal disorders, neurological disorders, nutritional and metabolic disorders, rare diseases, and trauma/injury. Since funding its first research grants in 2012, PCORI has spent $854.6 million on 399 outcomes research projects.



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