Consumer Healthcare Products
The Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA) is a nationally recognized association representing the consumer healthcare industry, consisting of distributors and manufacturers of more than-over-the-counter (OTC) medical devices, nutritional supplements, and other health-care products. CHPA supports improved patient care, fair prices, and knowledge among healthcare providers and consumers about medical products. CHPA has six key principles which it believes are vital to the development and distribution of quality healthcare products and services: transparency in pricing and product information, improved consumer education and awareness of health and healthcare, improved physician and consumer access to and Knowledge about new or improved medical products and services, and consistent application of national guidelines on clinical guidelines and pharmaceutical reimbursement. Specific CHPA policy statements include: promoting access to affordable health care; ensuring affordable access to quality health care services and information; protecting access to effective and safe prescription drugs; promoting access to therapy and preventive care; promoting the safe use and effectiveness of therapeutic and rehabilitative health care products; and preventing fraudulent billing and collection practices on medical supplies.
The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) regulates the consumer pharmaceutical sector. Specific federal programs that are implemented by the FDA directly or indirectly affect the consumer healthcare products industry include the Medicare Part D Plans and the Blue Shield Plan. On the state level, the Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR) regulates insurance products in the individual and group markets. Several state-funded consumer-driven watchdog organizations exist to monitor the companies and agencies accountable for consumer protection, to provide information to citizens and facilitate self-oversight.
Many healthcare consumer advocacy and privacy groups work to monitor the actions of pharmaceutical and hospital companies, as well as the FDA, regarding the sales of prescription medications, devices, food, and drugs to consumers. Some consumer groups have also formed cross-party organizations to demand greater consumer control of the health-care industry. Many state consumer-friendly polices have been proposed to regulate the consumer pharmaceuticals industry. These state-sponsored consumer safeguards aim at limiting the ability of pharmaceutical companies to use patient information against them, increasing consumer access to affordable and effective health-care services, regulating the advertising of prescription drugs and devices, and creating consumer protections against the “skimming” of health-care costs.
State-level regulatory efforts aimed at improving the quality of health-care and protecting consumers take on many forms. Consumer advocates for improved patient care have developed model bills for improving the quality of health care and protecting consumers from pharmaceutical abuse and neglect. Some states, such as Vermont, have developed comprehensive patient protection acts, which have been implemented to protect patients from deceptive and intimidating practices of health care providers, and to protect against the invasion of personal privacy by health care professionals. Other state-level regulatory frameworks have been adopted to address specific issues.
An example is the Connecticut Compilation of Consumer Healthcare Protection Act, which has been incorporated into the state’s regulatory framework. According to the statute, all health-care providers must post a standard form for evaluating the financial eligibility of a prospective patient for Medicaid or other low-income health programs. The form stipulates certain minimum qualifications for health-care assistance and informs the consumers about their rights to be informed about the prescribed medicines and devices, the frequency of their use and the duration of the plan. It also explains the consumers’ right to re-visit the form and get updated information about its progress. Furthermore, according to the Act, health workers who misapply medications should be fired immediately, in order to avoid the abuse of medications that could induce suicide. This is one measure that was adopted to improve the quality of patient care and deter health-care workers from engaging in behavior that may harm patients.
The Department of Health and Human Services is spearheading the implementation of the Connecticut Compilation of Consumer Healthcare Protection Act into federal law. Meanwhile, the American Association of Retired Persons has been instrumental in promoting and furthering the implementation of the Act. Meanwhile, other organizations assisting consumers with prescription drug plans to include the American Association of State Drug Administrators and the National Association of State Boards of Pharmacy. These groups have worked closely with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in developing consumer protection laws for prescription drugs. Meanwhile, representatives of these groups have met with representatives of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to promote uniform federal standards for the regulation of prescription drugs.