Tuesday, March 11, 2014
CMS Reverses Course on Restricting Access to Mental Health Drugs
Murphy Claims Victory as Agency Makes About-Face
(WASHINGTON, DC) — House Energy & Commerce Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Tim Murphy (PA-18) released the following statement following the decision by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to reverse course on an “anti-medical” proposal that would have restricted access to mental health drugs for senior citizens on Medicare Part D plans.
In a letter to Murphy dated March 10th, CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner wrote that “given the complexities of these issues and stakeholder input, we [CMS] do not plan to finalize these proposals at this time.”
“A rule to cut off access to life-saving mental health drugs for seniors never should have been advanced in the first place. Had CMS done its homework and discussed this issue with psychiatrists, psychologists, and patients, the agency would have learned that not all medications are created equal. Each medication within a therapeutic class has different molecular composition, different side effects, different drug interactions and impact the brain and body in unique ways. That is why physicians and patients with serious mental illnesses often try different therapies until they find the right one that works. Eliminating access to a broad range of antidepressants and antipsychotic medications would have resulted in more suicides and hospitalizations,” said Rep. Murphy, who has led efforts to keep in place protected class status for mental health drugs.
Murphy’s Helping Families In Mental Health Crisis Act (H.R. 3717), would codify current agency policy known as “protected classes” for classes of antidepressants and anti-psychotic medications. In January, Rep. Murphy wrote to CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner requesting information about the clinical basis of the new agency proposal to remove “protected class” status for two categories of non-interchangeable mental health drugs.
In an email blast to the American Psychiatric Association .D., “applauded” Murphy for his work to stop the agency from removing protected class status for mental health medications. On February 26, Dr. Murphy chastised a CMS official during the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health hearing entitled, “How CMS’ Attack on the Part D Program Will Increase Costs and Reduce Choices for Seniors.” The full video is available on Dr. Murphy’s YouTube page., President Jeffrey Lieberman, M
“If you restrict access to these drugs, you restrict the treatment of mental illness, you impact increasing hospital stays, you impact suicide rates, which increase sharply above age 65. You forbid the use of life-saving drugs,” Murphy told CMS official Jonathan Blum. “You are the people’s worst fears. You have no background, no education, no degree, and are practicing medicine without a license.”
Rep. Murphy, a clinical psychologist, told Mr. Blum to withdraw the proposal, citing a letter from the American Psychiatric Association that disputed the clinical justification for the agency action. The APA stated that CMS had “misinterpret[ed] and misrepresent[ed] APA’s clinical practice guidelines multiple times as justification for limiting patient access to medically necessary psychotropic medications.”
For more information on the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act, click here.
Posted by Karen Easter, Mental Health Advocate for Assisted Outpatient Treatment at 7:57 PM