Grassley recognized for work to increase accountability in health care system

WASHINGTON --- Senator Chuck Grassley today received the “2009 Health Policy Hero” award from the National Research Center for Women & Families for being “one of the Senate’s most outspoken advocates for accountability of health care agencies and the Senate’s strongest champion for the safety and effectiveness of medical products.”     


            It was the first time that the 10-year old organization had awarded sitting members of Congress for their work to improve the health and safety of adults and children across the country.  Rep. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut was also recognized today.


“They have forged their achievements in a system that does not easily bend to change, improving health policies and ensuring that government agencies are held accountable,” said Dr. Diana Zuckerman, the President of NRC for Women & Families.  “Their efforts have saved lives and improved the quality of life for millions of Americans who are left out of policy decisions that affect them everyday.”


In 2004, Grassley began extensive oversight of the Food and Drug Administration and has sought administrative and legislative reforms to strengthen post-market surveillance of prescription medicines, establish greater transparency and accountability regarding the agency’s actions, and recommit the FDA to the rigors of the scientific process and respect for scientific dissent.  Today the NRC for Women & Families said, “Thanks to Senator Grassley’s efforts, antidepressants now must have black box warnings that clearly state that the products increase the risk of suicide in children. ... Thanks to Senator Grassley’s outspoken criticism of the FDA, adults and children are safer and consumers are demanding an end to the cozy relationship between the FDA and industry.”


Grassley also has conducted extensive oversight and revealed large sums of unreported money going to leading research doctors.  He’s called on the National Institutes of Health to help achieve disclosure by fully exercising its authority to track financial relationships between the drug and device industry and doctors conducting federally sponsored medical research.  Grassley said actions during the last year toward greater tracking of financial relationships by individual drug companies, professional associations and medical centers shows that the reform movement is gaining traction.


Grassley is the sponsor of bipartisan legislation which would require makers of pharmaceuticals, medical devices and biologics to publicly report money they give to doctors over $100 a year.  The Physician Payments Sunshine Act of 2009 would establish a nationwide standard requiring drug, device and biologic makers to report payments to doctors to the Department of Health and Human Services and for those payments to be posted online in a user friendly way for public consumption.  It would establish penalties as high as $1 million for knowingly failing to report the information.


Grassley also has examined financial ties that members of advisory boards for the FDA have with the drug industry, and he issued a report two years ago on industry support for continuing medical education.


            As a health policy leader in the Senate, Grassley has won passage of reform legislation to improve Medicare reimbursement formulas for rural states.  In 2006, the President signed into law a bipartisan bill that Grassley had sought for many years to allow working parents to buy into Medicaid for children with special needs.  In 2003, Grassley authored the Senate legislation that ultimately created the Medicare prescription drug benefit, with extra assistance for low-income seniors.


            Ten years ago, as Chairman of the Special Committee on Aging, Grassley exposed neglect in some of the nation’s nursing homes and helped to bring about a comprehensive effort to improve the quality of care for nursing home residents.  Grassley continues to work to protect nursing home residents and has sponsored legislation to give families access to more information about nursing homes.


            Last month, Grassley sponsored bipartisan legislation to increase safety inspections of drug and medical device plans in the United States and other countries.


            The National Research Center for Women & Families is a nonprofit, nonpartisan research and education organization.  It has been selected as one of America’s best charities by the Independent Charities of America.