Democrat Bill, FTC Examine Ways To Drive Down Health Care Costs

A bill introduced Wednesday in the House would create an artificial joints database to root out bad practices and unnecessary surgeries, The New York Times reports. "The bill, co-sponsored by (Democrats) Bill Pascrell Jr. of New Jersey and Lloyd Doggett of Texas, would establish a government-backed registry to track patients’ results over time and help detect ineffective surgical practices and faulty devices. Patient registries, in areas like orthopedics, are expected to play an important role in 'comparative effectiveness' reviews that the Obama administration hopes will help identify which medical procedures and products work best."

Surgeons' associations and makers of the joints say they support the idea of a registry, but would like to create one outside the scope of government, arguing it would be more effective. Advocates of registries say hundreds of millions of dollars are wasted on unnecessary surgeries. Device manufacturers have declined to finance the registries, stalling earlier attempts to create an independent registry by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. The group has recently acquired funds to start up the registry but has yet to secure long-term financing.

"Pascrell said he believed that patients had waited long enough for the group to act. He also said that it was important for the government to be involved, given deferred prosecution agreements reached a few years ago between the Justice Department and makers of artificial hips and knees after investigations of illegal kickbacks to surgeons to use their products" (Meier, 6/10).

Meanwhile, the Federal Trade Commission said Thursday that protecting biotech drugs from generic versions for 12 to 14 years is unnecessary and that adding generic versions would drive down the cost of health care in the U.S., Reuters reports. "(A)n FTC report found 'the 12- to 14-year regulatory exclusivity period is too long to promote innovation,' particularly since brand-name companies 'likely will retain substantial market share' after generic competitors are approved. The FTC report found that competitors would likely enter the market only for drugs that had more than $250 million in annual sales, and only two to three generic entrants would be expected" (6/10).

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