Don’t Undermine Objectivity, Research Focus of USPSTF, AAFP President Tells Energy & Commerce Subcommittee

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE   
Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016

Contact:
Leslie Champlin
Senior Public Relations Strategist
American Academy of Family Physicians
(800) 274-2237, Ext. 5224
lchampli@aafp.org

WASHINGTON — Changes proposed by the USPSTF Transparency and Accountability Act, HR 1151, would undermine the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force by subjecting it to potential economic and political pressure and by diluting the focus of its research.

That was the warning from John Meigs, Jr., MD, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians. Meigs made his remarks today in testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health.

Ensuring patients have the most appropriate and cost-effective care depends on accurate information about the value of many of the services and tests provided by primary care physicians, Meigs told the subcommittee.

“Overall, the AAFP has come to rely on the US Preventive Services Task Force’s objective, rigorous assessment of scientific and medical evidence,” Meigs said. “The AAFP believes the current composition of the Task Force is appropriate and should not change. Thus, enactment of HR 1151, in our opinion, would undermine the Task Force.”

HR 1151 would alter the composition of the task force by adding subspecialty representatives – a move that ignores the purpose of the Task Force and discounts the already deep involvement of subspecialty physician groups in developing recommendations, according to Meigs.

“While we respect our specialty and subspecialty colleagues, their role in treating specific conditions and organ systems is not the same as developing guidelines to prevent such conditions,” he said.

Far more concerning is the legislation’s proposals to require input from a broader health care community and to require the Task Force to assess the effect a recommendation would have on access to care. These provisions raise the potential for disrupting the objectivity of the Task Force, changing it from an evidence-based body to a group influenced by concerns about financial and political interests.

“Task Force members and even our AAFP liaisons have been subjected to intense lobbying from professional societies as well as pharmaceutical and medical device companies that have significant economic interests in its recommendations,” Meigs told the subcommittee. “I have no doubt that pressure from these groups would only increase if HR 1151 were to be signed into law and, consequently, family physicians would be unable to trust that the Task Force’s recommendations were completely unbiased.”

Physicians rely on USPSTF’s evidence-based recommendations to work with patients in developing diagnostic and treatment plans. With the non-partisan, independent guidelines, doctors and patients can determine whether a test is medically necessary and helpful in the patient’s care, or whether the test imposes an unnecessary cost or -- worse -- could cause harm.

“In conclusion, I wanted to remind you of two key principles,” Meigs said. “The first principle of medicine: Primum non nocere: which means first, do no harm. The second principle, which is not unique to medicine is ‘if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.’

“The US Preventive Services Task Force is not broken; it does good work on behalf of primary care physicians and patients. I urge you to maintain this source of unbiased, evidence-based primary care guidance.

“Please do not harm.”

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Founded in 1947, the AAFP represents 124,900 physicians and medical students nationwide. It is the only medical society devoted solely to primary care.

Family physicians conduct approximately one in five office visits -- that’s 192 million visits annually or 48 percent more than the next most visited medical specialty. Today, family physicians provide more care for America’s underserved and rural populations than any other medical specialty. Family medicine’s cornerstone is an ongoing, personal patient-physician relationship focused on integrated care.

To learn more about the specialty of family medicine, the AAFP's positions(5 page PDF) on issues and clinical care, and for downloadable multi-media highlighting family medicine, visit
www.aafp.org/media. For information about health care, health conditions and wellness, please visit the AAFP’s award-winning consumer website, www.FamilyDoctor.org(www.familydoctor.org).