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 American Academy of Family Physicians represents 131,400 physicians and medical students nationwide, and it is the only medical society devoted solely to primary care.

Family physicians conduct approximately one in five of the total medical office visits in the United States per year – more than any other specialty. Family physicians provide comprehensive, evidence-based, and cost-effective care dedicated to improving the health of patients, families and communities. Family medicine’s cornerstone is an ongoing and personal patient-physician relationship where the family physician serves as the hub of each patient’s integrated care team. More Americans depend on family physicians than on any other medical specialty.

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