December 21, 2020

2020 was a year like no other, but despite the difficulties our country has been facing, the Goldwater Institute has been working to overcome these hurdles and continue our efforts to help Americans lead freer, happier lives. This week, we take a look back at some of the work Goldwater has done in 2020 to take on the challenges of our times.

With the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic on our shores, Americans’ health became the year’s dominant focus—what to do to protect ourselves, how to prevent the virus’s spread, and when appropriate treatments and ultimately a vaccine would arrive. But in the midst of these swirling questions, the Goldwater Institute was already devising a roadmap to recovery: We released a plan for dealing with the challenges posed by the pandemic, and that plan puts patients at the center of their own care, exactly where they should be.

We made the clear case for faster treatment and innovation in the face of government delay. 2020 has made it completely clear: We must embrace faster development and use of innovative treatments by reforming the federal government’s slow-moving and outdated drug approval process. When the FDA ultimately granted emergency use authorization for a COVID-19 vaccine in December, patients in the UK were already receiving the vaccine. As Goldwater Director of Healthcare Policy Naomi Lopez recently wrote at In Defense of Liberty, “while the U.S. leads the globe in drug innovation and development, the federal bureaucracy, red tape, and continued inability to adapt to an acceleration in medical advances has never been more evident.”

And still, the road to FDA emergency authorization for a COVID vaccine was far smoother than other treatments for other conditions face. FDA delays and overcaution prevent many terminal patients from accessing treatments that could prolong or save their lives. Goldwater’s Right to Try law—which became federal law in May 2018—has helped more patients get the treatments they need, but there’s more that should be done to help us move toward more patient-centric healthcare.

We worked to give doctors full access to truthful, scientific info about available treatments. Doctors ought to have the best information available to treat patients—plain and simple. That’s of particular importance with COVID-19—a virus that doctors continue to learn about. But FDA gag rules prevent treatment manufacturers from sharing truthful and scientific information about off-label uses of drugs or combination of drugs—even though it’s completely legal and extremely common to prescribe treatments off-label. Now more than ever, physicians need to understand the treatment needs of patients, but many are being kept in the dark without access to full information about treatment options.

Goldwater is working to remove restrictions on how valuable medical information is shared—while Arizona and Tennessee have both passed laws that protect the sharing of this information with doctors and insurers, more states should follow suit.

We’re advocating for safer, easier access to medical treatment. As COVID-19 exposed challenges in our healthcare system, Goldwater spent 2020 working to full those gaps. We called for the elimination of laws that restrict the number of hospitals, promoted telemedicine, and spoke out in favor of healthcare professionals’ ability to work across state lines. With COVID-19 hotspots emerging in different states and regions throughout the year, giving medical professionals the ability to practice in different locations would help make treatment more responsive and effective. For example, as the first doses of COVID-19 vaccine now make their way across the country, pharmacists should be freed to work across state lines to help administer the vaccine where it’s most needed.

We’re standing up to “expert panels” that put a value on your life. In the midst of the global pandemic was a presidential election—with sizable implications for the future of American healthcare. Under President-elect Joe Biden’s proposed healthcare plan, an “expert panel” would be able to put a value on how much your life is worth—and that value could determine whether or not you get vital treatments to prolong or save your life.

With the COVID-19 pandemic still ongoing, this issue has never been more important. In early December, the Goldwater Institute released a report laying out how this system of assigning such a value to a patient’s life—a value known as a quality-adjusted life year, or QALY—can make all the difference between whether a treatment is approved or denied for reimbursement, which limits needed care for the most vulnerable. As we move into 2021, Goldwater is urging federal and state lawmakers to limit the use of QALYs in coverage decisions for government health insurance programs.

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