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Electronic medical records need more privacy

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Biologics, Health IT Bills First Step to Improving Healthcare, But Must be Strengthened so Consumers Truly Benefit

(Washington, D.C.) – Two bills passed today by the Senate Health committee – creating a pathway for generic biologics for market, and health information technology – are first steps toward improving access to lower cost drugs and improving patient care, but both need to be strengthened to ensure consumers truly benefit, Consumers Union said.
The generic biologics legislation gives the Food and Drug Administration the long- overdue authority to begin developing a process for approving lower cost generic versions for market of biologic drugs – medications for cancer, multiple sclerosis, etc. But the bill grants a 12-year period of exclusivity for the brand biologic, effectively keeping lower-cost generic versions off the market for far too long.
“We are encouraged that the Senate is working on getting lower-cost generic biologics such as cancer treatments to market, since these drugs in brand version are prohibitively expensive to so many people,” said Bill Vaughan, senior policy analyst for Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports. “But 12 years is too long for patients to wait for a generic version of these drugs that they can afford.”
“We look forward to working with Congress to get low-cost generic biologics to patients who need them as quickly as possible,” Vaughan added.
The Senate panel also approved the Wired for Healthcare Quality Act, to move the nation from a paper-based medical records system to an electronics-based system. By having patient’s medical records available electronically, medical errors will be reduced and patients can be treated more quickly and effectively.
Consumers Union supports Health IT, but is concerned about patient privacy protections in the Senate legislation.
“Unless strong privacy and security protections are added to this legislation, many Americans will be reluctant to use or trust the new Health IT systems,” Vaughan said. “This is truly a case where the over-used phrase, ‘one size doesn’t fit all,’ is appropriate. Americans should be given the right to opt out of national IT systems, and the Senate bill currently does not address this key privacy issue.”
Contact: Susan Herold, Bill Vaughan, 202-462-6262