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Latta Findlay Courier Op-Ed: Bills Allow More Health Care Choices for Patients

Washington, July 31, 2018 | Drew Griffin (202-225-6405)

Nearly all of us are familiar with using over-the-counter products. For example, when the pollen count gets high, many of us reach for allergy medication to provide relief. We take an aspirin to deal with a pounding headache or use a lozenge to soothe that sore throat. We all know how these over-the-counter (OTC) medicines can help us manage many of life’s afflictions, treat an injury, or prevent an illness. 

For consumers, the important part of using these products is knowing that the medicines are effective, affordable, and safe.

What many don’t know is that the system the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) uses to approve OTC medications is outdated. It's called the OTC Monograph System and was established in 1972. Simply put, a monograph is regulatory standard used to evaluate the safety and efficiency of a product. Unfortunately, the system has been cumbersome for manufacturers, prevents products from making it to the market quickly, and stifles innovation. Many of the monographs were never finished and some don’t reflect the newest scientific information.

You don’t have to take my word that the OTC Monograph System is broken. Manufacturers, consumer advocates, doctor groups, and policymakers on both sides of the aisle have all said the monograph process needs to be brought into the 21st century. But, like many things in Washington, a fix has eluded policymakers as talks would break down over minor issues or for unrelated reasons.

I didn’t want to let another Congress go by without addressing this problem and improving the way OTC products are approved. When innovation is stifled, it’s consumers that suffer from higher prices and fewer choices.

Through countless discussions with my colleagues on the Energy and Commerce Committee, we were able to draft legislation to fix the problem. The bill I authored, H.R. 5333, the Over-the-Counter Monograph Safety, Innovation, and Reform Act, creates new pathways to innovation that don’t currently exist. It does this by allowing the FDA to make scientific determinations for OTC ingredients through an administrative order process. Simply put, this means a more efficient way to approve these drugs using the most up-to-date science. 

That legislation was approved by a unanimous vote in the U.S. House of Representatives recently, and I’m optimistic it will get to the President’s desk soon.

The passage of this bill is part of a larger discussion about allowing more choice for patients when it comes to their health care. I continue to hear from Ohioans who feel that a one-size-fits-all system often leaves them with very few options. 

For example, I received an email from two married constituents that described issues they had trying to use their Health Savings Account (HSA). Because of a technicality, they were unable to continue contributing to their HSA even though one of them was still working. This came about because one spouse began collecting Social Security benefits, automatically enrolling them in Medicare Part A. Unfortunately, the practical reality is they were stuck with a high-deductible insurance plan through their work while not being able to contribute to their HSA – the worst of both worlds. It’s situations like these that make people so fed up with our health care system. 

With four times as many people utilizing HSAs today than were a decade ago, it’s important these sorts of problems are fixed. That’s why I introduced legislation that would do just that and allow Social Security recipients to continue contributing to HSAs if they are still working. The House passed a package of bills last week to fix this issue and reduce other barriers to using HSAs.

We also passed other bills to promote choice and innovation in the health care sector. For example, I joined my colleagues in voting to repeal the medical device tax which stifles life-saving medical technology.

It’s time to start giving patients more options and better care at lowers costs. That means reducing roadblocks that harm cutting-edge innovation and consumer choice. Whether it’s over-the-counter drugs, medical devices, or access to HSAs, I’m working to give Ohio families more options when it comes to their health care. 

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