During the tumultuous attempts by Senate Republicans to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the eyes of every Mainer — voters, health care practitioners, and passionate advocates — were fixed on the repercussions of these actions. We closely examined how ACA’s potential repeal would affect our lives, our families, and our patients. There was a constant influx of information, illustrating the harm it could inflict on patient care, how it would cause costs to skyrocket and the overall distress it would cause to Mainers.

Sen. Susan Collins, in the face of intense pressure from her party, considered all of these factors and ultimately chose to stand with her constituents and Maine’s dedicated health care professionals. She made the tough decision to break ranks with her party and safeguard Mainers with pre-existing conditions and those who rely on Medicare and Medicaid. Throughout her tenure, she has been a steadfast champion for us in the corridors of power in Washington, D.C., and it appears that the time may be approaching for her to do so once again.

As a proud Mainer and primary care physician, I’m deeply attuned to the unique health care challenges our state faces. I’ve maintained a vigilant watch over healthcare provisions in Congress and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations that could have an impact on our state. Over the years, the consequences of proposed bills and regulatory changes that garnered national attention have become glaringly evident.

But recently, the FDA discreetly introduced a rule that would allow pharmacies to opt out of providing printed patient information when dispensing prescriptions. Instead, crucial patient information would be supplied electronically and in a format that was designed without considering cognitive, science-backed research on how to present this intricate and vital information in a manner easily understood by patients and caregivers.

While the notion of “E-labeling” may appear promising, it is fraught with risks, especially when it has the potential to jeopardize lives. Even with the existing information provided with prescriptions, individuals still succumb to medication errors, resulting in over a million emergency room visits annually. This problem will only be exacerbated if individuals are unable to access this crucial information. Some pharmacies may attempt to continue offering printed medication information, but the financial burden will fall squarely on their shoulders, a particularly challenging prospect for the numerous family-owned pharmacies in Maine. This rule places pharmacies in the impossible position of choosing between their survival and providing life-saving information.

Maine’s aging population relies on an increasing number of prescriptions to manage various serious medical conditions, and nearly half of our state’s residents are over 50 years old. It is entirely unnecessary to relegate this life-saving information to the realm of QR codes and other technologies that understandably pose challenges for older Mainers.

The FDA is actively seeking input from the American public on this issue until Thanksgiving, and I implore Mainers to submit their comments to ensure our voices are heard. Additionally, there is legislation in the House of Representatives known as the Patients’ Right to Know Their Medication Act, which would guarantee that this information is presented in a scientifically proven, comprehensible format.

Despite the FDA’s efforts to keep this matter under the radar, I hold firm in my belief that Sen. Collins, leveraging her position on the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee — endowed with oversight over the FDA — will once again protect Mainers health care from irresponsible federal regulations.


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