HEALTH

CHPA, industry supports ‘Restoring Access to Medication Act’

BY Michael Johnsen

WASHINGTON — The Consumer Healthcare Products Association on Wednesday applauded the introduction of bipartisan, bicameral legislation in the U.S. Congress that would restore the ability of consumers to use their tax-preferred flexible spending arrangements and health savings accounts to purchase over-the-counter medicines. The legislation, “Restoring Access to Medication Act (RAMA) of 2017” (H.R. 394 and S. 85), was introduced in the Senate by Sens. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., and in the U.S. House by Reps. Lynn Jenkins, R-Kan., and Ron Kind, D-Wis.

 “Americans are being asked to fund more of their healthcare expenses through higher deductibles and copays, so it’s more important than ever that cost-effective OTC medicines are treated the same as other eligible medical expenses in tax-preferred healthcare accounts,” stated Scott Melville, CHPA president and CEO. “Restoring OTC eligibility under FSAs and HSAs will help the more than 50 million consumers who use these accounts and who are looking to take greater ownership of their own health through responsible self-care.”

“For years, Kansans and folks across the country have used Health Savings Accounts and Flexible Savings Spending Accounts to help save and pay for over the counter medication. Unfortunately, President Obama’s healthcare law made use of these accounts more expensive and burdensome,” Jenkins reported. “This bipartisan legislation will repeal this tax so families and individuals can better manage their own healthcare expenses.”

“With cold and flu season in full swing many Wisconsinites are having to pay steep prices for over-the-counter medicines to treat their symptoms. The Restoring Access to Medication and Improving Health Savings Act will lower drug costs for Wisconsin families,” Kind added.

OTC medicine eligibility in tax-preferred accounts was removed in 2011 as one of the first-implemented provisions of the Affordable Care Act. Since that time, CHPA has been leading a broad national coalition – the Health Choices Coalition – advocating for restoration of this important consumer benefit. The HCC includes consumer advocates, policymakers, physicians, dentists, retailers, pharmacies, pharmacists, insurers, drug manufacturers and various employers.

Many Americans depend on OTC medicines as a first-line option for meeting family healthcare needs, and these medicines provide a safe, effective, affordable, and convenient means to alleviate the symptoms of minor to moderate ailments. More than 90% of Americans prefer to seek treatment with OTCs before seeing a healthcare provider, and nearly 90% of the physicians and pharmacists recommend that patients self-treat with OTC medicines before seeking physician care.

Self-care with OTCs helps reduce unnecessary doctor visits, reduce lost time from work, and provide a significant cost advantage for consumers. According to a study conducted by CHPA, OTCs save consumers and the healthcare system $102 billion each year, and for every dollar spent on OTC medications in the U.S., the healthcare system saves between $6 and $7.
 

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CHPA shares success combating cough medicine abuse

BY Michael Johnsen

WASHINGTON — The Consumer Healthcare Products Association on Tuesday posted a video outlining the association's efforts in combating abuse of cough/cold medicines.

And CHPA is having a measurable impact. According to the results of the 2016 National Institute on Drug Abuse and University of Michigan’s Monitoring the Future survey released last month, the percentage of teens using over-the-counter cough medicine containing dextromethorphan to get high remains at 3%. When first reported by Monitoring the Future in 2006, teen OTC cough medicine abuse was at just under 6%.

"CHPA and our industry first became aware of abuse of dextromethorphan, a common cough medicine ingredient, back in 2006," opens Scott Melville, president and CEO CHPA. "We decided we needed to act."

Since, CHPA has developed a three-prong strategy in combating the issue, which includes connecting to parents and teens on awareness efforts and galvanizing the industry to restrict the sale of products containing DXM to adults over the age of 18.  

In 2009, CHPA member companies placed a “PARENTS: Learn About Teen Medicine Abuse” icon on the packaging of DXM-containing cough medicines.  The icon serves as a mini public service announcement for parents, making them aware of cough medicine abuse at the point-of-sale and point-of-use and directing them to StopMedicineAbuse.org.

Additionally, CHPA collaborates with The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids to target teens likely to abuse DXM based on their online search activity and provide them accurate information about the consequences of this behavior. Teens are directed to visit WhatIsDXM.com to learn more.

To help restrict teen access to DXM, CHPA supported the passage of state laws prohibiting the sale of medicines containing DXM to those under 18.  Currently 12 states, Alaska, Arizona, California, Delaware, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, New Jersey, New York, Tennessee, Virginia, and Washington, have all passed this legislation, three of which passed last year thanks to CHPA’s active engagement.
 

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Flu incidence on the rise and this season could be severe, CDC says

BY Michael Johnsen

ATLANTA  — Incidence of influenza is elevated in all but one of 10 HHS Surveillance Regions for the week ended Dec. 31, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently reported. The end of the year marked the third week influenza activity was above the national baseline level of 2.2% as activity levels continue to climb.

There were several pockets of high influenza activity, including throughout New York City, Puerto Rico and 10 states  (Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina and Utah).

Influenza A (H3N2) viruses have been identified most frequently in the United States. Of respiratory samples from the United States that were analyzed by public health laboratories, 1,160 were positive for influenza, of which 1,050 (90.5%) were influenza A and 110 (9.5%) were influenza B. Of the 972 influenza A viruses that were subtyped, most (96.3%) were H3 viruses and (3.7%) were (H1N1)pdm09 viruses.

In the past, H3N2-predominant seasons have been associated with more severe illness and higher mortality, especially in older people and young children, relative to H1N1- or B-predominant season. While it’s not possible to predict which influenza viruses will predominate for the entire 2016-2017 influenza season, if H3N2 viruses continue to circulate widely, older adults and young children may be more severely impacted.
  

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