|Congressman Griffith's Weekly E-Newsletter 6.3.13
Monday, June 3, 2013 â€“
Advancing Mental Health
On June 3, President Obama held a National Conference on Mental Health.
The President said, â€śweâ€™ve got to do a better job recognizing mental health issues in our children. â€¦ [T]hree-quarters of mental illnesses emerge by the end of -- by the age of 24, [but] only about half of children with mental health problems receive treatment. â€¦â€ť
On this, President Obama and I are in agreement.
Members of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee of the Energy and Commerce Committee, on which I serve, heard testimony that, even for those children who get treatment, it takes approximately 18 months before they see a mental health professional for the first time.
We held meetings on severe mental illness and violence, where we heard heart-wrenching stories of individuals who suffered from severe mental illnesses and then were involved in violent acts. Often these were acts of suicide, but sometimes they were acts against others, including murder. Of course, the majority of people with mental illnesses do not resort to violence.
We must continue working to ensure that those individuals needing help are able to receive treatment.
Meningitis Health Scare
Last fallâ€™s fungal meningitis outbreak was a true public health crisis for our nation. In our region, there were 2 deaths and 50 confirmed cases of fungal meningitis associated with the sterile compounded injections from the New England Compounding Center (NECC). Approximately 1,400 patients were notified that they could have been exposed through the tainted steroid injections.
I believe that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) clearly had the authority they needed to prevent the fungal meningitis outbreak.
To be on the safe side, though, I plan to introduce legislation that further defines a compounding pharmacy. These should continue to be regulated by the States. Manufacturers, no matter what they call themselves, should continue to be regulated by the FDA.
In completing a thorough investigation of the fungal meningitis outbreak, the Energy and Commerce Committee obtained draft guidance for the oversight of compounding pharmacies that FDA had spent 3 years developing and were taking the steps necessary to finalize in the days before the public health crisis. Instead of providing the agency with broad new authorities over our local community pharmacies, I believe this FDA draft guidance is the place to start.
The legislation being developed would clarify that to be a compounding pharmacy one must compound drugs based on patient-specific prescriptions. The bill would also codify a guidance provision that FDA had proposed to allow hospitals, clinics, and doctors to administer some compounded medications in a healthcare setting that would then require a patient-specific prescription to be reported back to the pharmacy within 7 days. The legislation would also require all compounding pharmacies meet a minimum federal standard for the safety, quality, and sterility of the drugs they produce.
Finally, the bill would provide for greater information sharing between FDA and the States. With NECC, FDA received complaints from multiple states about NECC, but FDA never shared this information with other States or took action to investigate NECC for illegal manufacturing.
Several weeks ago, I wrote about Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebeliusâ€™ April 18 appearance before the Subcommittee on Health. While testifying, Secretary Sebelius said that Medicare Advantage rates nationwide have gone down. This comment left me wondering whether the Secretaryâ€™s national statistics play out in rural communities like many in Virginiaâ€™s Ninth Congressional District, especially given that my 83-year-old mother is now paying higher rates to keep the plan she has and likes.
Thanks to those who submitted feedback to my office regarding whether their Medicare Advantage rates have gone up, stayed the same, or decreased. We heard from several people that their rates had decreased or that they werenâ€™t sure of changes in their rates, but we received more feedback having to do with rates increasing. If you have not yet shared your experience with us, I welcome you to do so.
As you may know, the Ninth Congressional District of Virginia is slightly larger than the entire state of New Jersey, encompassing parts of Southwest Virginia, Southern Virginia, and the Alleghany Highlands. My staff and I travel regularly through the district to hold traveling staff office hours, where we meet with constituents and help interact with federal agencies. This is a common-sense way for you to voice your opinion on legislation or seek assistance with federal issues. A complete schedule of Juneâ€™s traveling staff office hours can be found on my website,