Prepared by Christopher Gallagher, ASMBS Washington Representative
OCAN Advocates Blanket Capitol Hill during ObesityWeek
From Monday – Friday, October 30 – November 3, 2017, Obesity Care Advocacy Network (OCAN) advocates took to Capitol Hill to educate Congress about the goals of National Obesity Care Week (NOCW). That we as a country must change the way we care about obesity by elevating societal awareness of the disease of obesity, those affected by it, its science-based treatments and weight bias. These efforts pushed the Senate version of the NOCW across the finish line when the Senate passed the Carper/Capito resolution by unanimous consent on November 8th.
As part of this effort, advocates educated congressional staff about some of the major gaps in coverage for obesity treatment services that currently exist in the Medicare program. Advocates highlighted the necessity for Congress to pass the Treat and Reduce Obesity Act (TROA) of 2017 (HR 1953 and S 830) to provide Medicare beneficiaries and their health care providers with meaningful tools to treat obesity by improving access to weight management counseling and allowing for coverage of FDA-approved therapeutics for chronic weight management.
During NOCW, more than 50 advocates, including many Novo Nordisk, Inc., patient ambassadors and OAC members, visited 70 congressional offices — urging legislators to signal their strong support for TROA by officially cosponsoring the legislation. In the wake of these visits, a number of legislators have stepped up their support for the bill — raising the number of House and Senate cosponsors to more than 135.
OCAN Applauds USP on New Drug Classification System and New Anti-Obesity Agent Category
On September 25, 2017, the United States Pharmacopeia announced a second round of public comments on its new draft Drug Classification (USP-DC) — an independent drug classification system currently under development by the USP Healthcare Quality & Safety Expert Committee. The USP DC is designed to address stakeholder needs emerging from the extended use of the USP Medicare Model Guidelines (USP MMG) beyond the Medicare Part D benefit.
Over the past ten years, the USP MMG has been adopted in other health policy settings outside of its intended Medicare utilization. Through this extension of use, public comment and stakeholder feedback has identified the need to create a an independent classification system that can provide a more comprehensive inclusion of outpatient drugs, more frequent revisions, and more detailed mapping tools for implementation.
In its October 30, 2017 comment letter, OCAN applauded the USP for establishing a new class for anti-obesity agents and including all FDA-approved drugs under the list of “Example Drugs” – both in the single entity list and combination list of the latest version of the proposed USP-DC. OCAN continued — saying that this approach will ensure that unique treatment approaches as well as drug combination therapies such as CONTRAVE® and Qsymia® will be encompassed under this new drug classification system.
OCC Members Continue Campaign to Enact State Anti-Discrimination Bills
On October 16, 2017, the Massachusetts Joint Committee on the Judiciary held a public hearing to discuss approval of House Bill (HB) 952 – legislation that would make discrimination on the basis of height and weight unlawful in the State of Massachusetts. Leading up to the committee hearing, OCC members reached out to every member of the joint committee urging them to approve this critical legislation.
One such example was the OAC’s October 13th letter of support for HB 952, which discussed how devastating negative stereotypes can be on individuals with overweight and obesity and how these stereotypes perpetuate the false belief that individuals with obesity are lazy, lacking in self-discipline, sloppy, non-compliant, unintelligent and personally to blame for their weight. Although the validity of such stereotypes has been challenged and refuted, discriminatory practices continue in multiple settings. For example, considerable evidence has documented weight-based employment discrimination, showing that employees with obesity face inequities in hiring practices, promotions, wages and job termination.
For more than a decade, OAC has been working with other Massachusetts-based OCC leaders to pass this legislation. At the time of this report, the committee had yet to reveal the result of its vote on HB 952.