Some Drugs Should Not Be Over-The-Counter

Arlington, Va., Feb. 24, 2003– Forced over-the-counter switches of prescription drugs will threaten the health of America’s senior citizens, unduly encourage dangerous self-medicating by seniors, and further imperil their financial livelihood, according to a letter issued today to the FDA commissioner by the 60 Plus Association.

“America’s growing senior citizen population will be on the front lines of medical and economic complications propagated by dangerous forced OTC switches,” 60 Plus asserts in the letter, urging Dr. Mark McClellan, FDA’s commissioner, to deny a petition by a major HMO, WellPoint Health Networks, that seeks the forced switch of newer non-drowsy allergy drugs. If FDA complies, WellPoint and other health insurers are expected to de-select the entire class of these drugs from their pharmacy benefits and force patients, including financially vulnerable seniors, to pay for the drugs out-of-pocket.

“This smacks of an HMO trying to play doctor,” said Jim Martin, president of 60 Plus, “and the FDA should not be a party in that power play.”

“Distancing these seniors from the care of a doctor egregiously jeopardizes their health and well-being,” the letter continues, “and, incidentally, could serve to increase other healthcare expenditures, such as hospital visits to treat unnecessary overdosing or complications that arise from unforeseen contraindications.” Studies have shown that for every dollar spent on newer prescription drugs, as much as $4 is saved on other healthcare expenditures, such as inpatient hospital stays.

“America’s seniors deserve the finest in health care. Anything that breaks the critically important link they share with their physicians and other health professionals ought not be embraced by the FDA,” concluded Martin.