Dr Angus Worthing Addresses Recent Physician Letter Sent to HHS

March 21, 2018
Samantha DiGrande

In an interview with The Center for Biosimilars®, Angus Worthing, MD, FACP, FACR, chair of the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) Government Affairs Committee, discussed the letter recently sent to HHS addressing physician concerns with proposed legislation.

Last week, 9 physician groups sent a joint letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar to voice concerns about the president’s 2019 budget and the Council of Economic Advisers’ drug plan.

When asked what the burden on the patient would be if practitioners have to stop prescribing biologic therapies altogether due to concerns outlined in the letter, Angus Worthing, MD, FACP, FACR, chair of the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) Government Affairs Committee, told the Center for Biosimilars® in an email that patients losing access to biologic therapy can be a crisis.

“Most people currently taking a biologic have spent years obtaining a diagnosis, then trying initial treatment with pills or other drugs, which may have been inadequate or caused side effects, and now if they’re doing well, stopping biologic treatment is likely to cause a flare of disease… so, once a person’s disease is well-controlled with biologic therapy, that treatment shouldn’t be stopped for nonmedical reasons,” Worthing wrote.

Proposed legislation, such as President Donald Trump’s budget, could impact patients starting to use biosimilars, he added. “Reducing access to biosimilars at this time could possibly threaten to reduce demand for biosimilars and prevent their reason for being, which is to reduce biologic drug prices. This would be an unfortunate unintended consequence of a plan geared toward reducing biologic drug prices,” said Worthing.

In the letter, the groups also urged HHS to repeal the sequester cuts to Medicare Part B reimbursements. When asked what he has personally seen happen in his own practice due to the sequester cuts, Worthing noted, “The large group practice in which I practice has leveraged efficiencies in order to continue to provide Part B drug services to Medicare beneficiaries despite the sequester’s nearly 30% reimbursement cut; however, doctors in small or underserved communities have had to stop providing these drugs because of the razor-thin margins that threaten viability. Their patients have been forced to different sites of service like hospitals, which can cost the system more money or can sometimes be inconvenient or unfamiliar to patients.”

Finally, Worthing commended the White House for prioritizing the reduction of high drug prices. “The ACR and other stakeholders stand ready to work with the administration to do just that; however, we want to make sure proposals don’t have the unintended consequence of reducing access to these critical treatments for our patients.”

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