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Rheumatologists Convene on Capitol Hill to Advocate for Patients During Arthritis Awareness Month

American College of Rheumatology Members Urge Congressional Leaders to Support Patients’ Access to Treatments Act, Increase Investment in U.S. Medical Research‐

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Members of the American College of Rheumatology – including more than 60 practicing rheumatologists from across the country – convened today on Capitol Hill to meet with Congressional leaders and advocate for policies that would address healthcare challenges facing patients diagnosed with arthritis and rheumatic diseases. Further, physicians educated policymakers about the prevalence of rheumatic diseases, which now impact an estimated 11 million Americans of all ages.

Specifically, rheumatologists voiced their support for H.R. 1600, the Patients’ Access to Treatment Act, which would limit patient cost sharing for specialty tier drugs, including biologics, therefore increasing patient access to these life‐enhancing treatments. The bipartisan legislation introduced by Reps. David McKinley (R‐WV) and Lois Capps (D‐CA) would prohibit health plans from imposing higher cost sharing requirements for specialty drugs than fees charged for other prescription drugs in a non‐preferred brand drug tier. Currently, average patient copayments for biologics placed on specialty tiers range from $500 to more than $5,000 each month.

“The high cost of specialty drugs has put vital biologic therapies out of reach for far too many U.S. patients living with rheumatic diseases,” said Dr. Will Harvey, a practicing rheumatologist and Government Affairs Committee Chair for the ACR. “Data show that one in six patients with rheumatoid arthritis have decreased their prescribed medication due to cost, which is simply unacceptable. We believe that no one should have to make the choice between their health and crippling financial debt.”

Members of the ACR also urged Congressional leaders to support increased investment in medical research, including $32 billion in funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and $13 million for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Arthritis Program in the FY 2016 Labor, Health and Human Services Appropriations Bill.

“Biomedical research is foundational to the understanding, treatment, and management of rheumatic diseases. Research funded by the NIH has fueled the development of breakthrough therapies like biologics, which have been truly life changing for our patients,” said Harvey. “Sadly, funding for the NIH has declined every year for the past decade. It’s time to reverse the downward trajectory and re‐establish the United States as the world leader in biomedical research,” Harvey continued.

Rheumatologists also urged legislators to support the creation of a $20 million dedicated arthritis research program at the Department of Defense (DOD), to better serve the one in four U.S. veterans diagnosed with arthritis.

Other policies that received support from ACR members included H.R. 2247, a bill introduced by Rep. Diane Black (R‐TN) on May 12 that would mitigate ICD‐10 implementation risks for physicians.

“Rheumatic diseases remain the leading cause of disability in the United States, and contribute to more than $127 billion in health costs each year,” concluded Harvey. “We look forward to working with lawmakers to address these health and economic challenges, and ensure that the millions of U.S. patients living with rheumatic diseases continue to receive consistent, high‐quality care.”

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About the American College of Rheumatology
The American College of Rheumatology is an international medical society representing over 9,400 rheumatologists and rheumatology health professionals with a mission to Advance Rheumatology! In doing so, the ACR offers education, research, advocacy and practice management support to help its members continue their innovative work and provide quality patient care. Rheumatologists are experts in the diagnosis, management and treatment of more than 100 different types of arthritis and rheumatic diseases. For more information, visit www.rheumatology.org.

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