ZERO provides US prostate cancer policy update

Skip Lockwood of ZERO — The Project to End Prostate Cancer has today provided an update on the many prostate cancer issues that the US Congress has been and will be working on as the fiscal year and the 2009 legislative cycle draw to a close.

The Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program (CDMRP) and the Prostate Cancer Research Program (PCRP)

The CDMRP is funded annually in the Department of Defense Appropriations Bill.  The House already passed the Defense Appropriations Bill, recommending a PCRP funding level of $80 million.  The Senate has not yet marked the bill up out of Committee.  However, it is unlikely that the Senate will take up the Defense Bill before the start of the new fiscal year (on October 1).

PCRP funding has not increased since 2001 when the program received $100 million.  Last year, the program was appropriated $80 million, ­ the same level of funding received for the previous 4 years. This year, PCRP is hoping for an increase from the Senate. The House bill once again recommended funding at $80 million.  ZERO has been reaching out to key influencers to assist with their Senate activities.

ZERO has stated that calls and letters to the Senate indicating your support for increased funding would be most helpful at this critical period. You can click here for contact information for your Senators. You can also click here to send a letter to your congressional representatives to encourage support for early detection and men’s prostate health.

Thomas J. Manton Early Detection and Treatment Act

Congressman Jim Marshall (GA) is determined this year to introduce this bill, which is designed to provide early detection and treatment of prostate cancer for under-insured and uninsured men, similar to the breast and ovarian cancer program at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.  Rep. Marshall has delayed introduction of the bill in hopes of securing initial support from the entire New York congressional delegation, as the late Rep. Manton came from New York.  The New York delegation, however, includes a number of new members who are unfamiliar with the bill and have been reluctant to sign on as original co-sponsors.

ZERO continues to work with Rep. Marshall and his staff to educate them and ease any concerns about a variety of scientific data generated this year on the early detection of prostate cancer and its potential impacts.

U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF)

Discussions with the Senate Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations subcommittee regarding early detection of prostate cancer and the Manton Bill led to a series of meetings with the CDC and the USPSTF. CDC supports creating such a program, but is limited in its ability to initiate one because current federal recommendations for early detection are deemed “inconclusive.”

Most federal policies for early detection and health prevention services are set by the USPSTF. The USPSTF, sponsored by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), is an independent panel of private-sector experts in prevention and primary care.  The mission of the USPSTF is to (1) evaluate the benefits of individual services based on age, gender, and risk factors for disease; (2) to make recommendations as to which preventive services should be incorporated routinely into primary medical care and for which patient populations; and (3) to identify a research agenda for clinical preventive care.  Unfortunately, USPSTF at present includes neither an oncologist nor urologist, potentially leaving a significant gap in knowledge concerning cancer issues.  Of greater concern is that USPSTF appears to have a significant role in many of the health care reform proposals, thereby leaving prostate cancer concerns at a distinct disadvantage.

Health Care Reform

Health Care Reform (HCR) is facing a great deal of opposition. However, Congress continues to work on various proposals, hoping to find common ground to advance a bill. The House forced a measure through in July, while the Senate still has several versions waiting to be voted on by various Committees.

The primary issue with HCR regarding men’s health and prostate cancer is that all versions rely upon the USPSTF to set policy regarding early detection of prostate cancer.  as mentioned above, the USPSTF has ruled the evidence on the effectiveness of prostate cancer early detection as “inconclusive” and, therefore, it should not be covered under the HCR plans as written.  There are rumored amendments that may help to guarantee coverage for prostate cancer testing, but none have surfaced as of yet.

The President is scheduled to address Congress tonight, Wednesday, September 9, to discuss in greater detail his plan for HCR.  His focus will be on the primary issues that emerged during August in Town Hall meetings around the country.  These issues included the cost of an overall HCR plan and solutions for containing costs.  Given some of the press coverage this summer about prostate cancer and whether or not it is over-diagnosed/over-treated and overly-expensive, ZERO is working to ensure
that prostate cancer specifically ­ and men’s health in general ­will not be excluded as a convenient means to lower costs.

Presidential Proclamation of “National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month”

A Presidential Proclamation declaring September as National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month (PCAM) was issued on August 31, 2009.

ZERO had been in contact with the White House since April to ensure that this annual recognition would be continued by the new Administration.

Senate Resolution for National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

The annual Senate Resolution for Prostate Cancer Awareness Month will be introduced in the near future. ZERO is working with Sen. Jeff Sessions (AL) and his staff to update the legislative language and secure co-sponsors before the resolution is introduced.  As has been recent practice with this resolution, the Senate will “hot line” it by expediting the normal legislative procedures.

Your Voice Is Important

We encourage you to contact your elected representatives on Capitol Hill to indicate your support for early detection and men’s prostate health. You can click here to see the House of Representatives member listing; you can click here to find contact information on your Senators; and you can click here to send a letter to your congressional representatives to encourage support for early detection and men’s prostate health.

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