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Prominent U.S. Senators Initiate Letter to Secretary Sebelius Regarding Immunotherapy

February 1, 2016
The AAAAI has continued efforts to bring the cost-effectiveness and underutilization of immunotherapy to the attention of policy makers. The Senate FY 2016 HHS Appropriations bill included the following provisions:

NIAID:  Immunotherapy Research —The Committee is pleased that NIAID has joined AHRQ in co-sponsoring a workshop on allergen immunotherapy effectiveness. The Committee requests an update in the fiscal year 2017 CJ on steps that will be taken to implement the recommendations of the workshop and promote research in this area.

AHRQ:  Immunotherapy and Asthma —The Committee is pleased that AHRQ has joined NIH in co-sponsoring a workshop on immunotherapy effectiveness. The Committee requests an update from AHRQ in the fiscal year 2017 CJ on research that will be undertaken pursuant to the workshop with the goal of identifying patient, healthcare provider, and systems barriers to initiation and adherence to allergy immunotherapy and developing interventions to address these problems. This report should include information on planned AHRQ initiatives pertaining to the utilization of allergy immunotherapy to reduce the prevalence of asthma.

The NIH/AHRQ meeting referenced above was held in June. The participants are developing a report identifying research gaps and proposing clinical studies to address these.

March 6, 2014

The AAAAI has been pushing for a multi-agency initiative of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to examine the cost-effectiveness of allergy immunotherapy and methods to promote broader utilization. This effort got a significant boost in March, when a group of prominent U.S. Senators sent a letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on the topic.

The letter to Secretary Sebelius was initiated by Maryland Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Barbara Mikulski(D-MD), and co-signed by Senate Assistant Majority Leader Richard Durbin (D-IL), Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).

The letter expressed concern that allergy immunotherapy is underutilized in the United States, stating:

It is important for agencies within your Department to proceed with the development of a comprehensive research initiative on the use of IT for the treatment of AR and asthma, including an effort to develop strategies to promote utilization in appropriate patients and encourage provider and patient education and compliance with existing guidelines.

The full letter can be viewed here.

Previously, a study funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) was published demonstrating that allergy immunotherapy is effective in reducing asthma, nasal allergy, and conjunctivitis symptoms; lowering the use of asthma medications; and improving patient quality of life.

In addition, several studies comparing immunotherapy with symptomatic treatment have demonstrated that it is extremely cost-effective but utilized by less than 10% of patients diagnosed with allergic rhinitis.

The AAAAI will continue working with Senator Cardin and others on this important issue, and AAAAI members will be informed of any relevant HHS funding initiatives.

Letter to Sebelius Immunotherapy

From left to right: AAAAI President Linda Cox, MD, FAAAAI,
Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md) and AAAAI Board member
David M. Lang, MD, FAAAAI. Dr. Cox and Dr. Lang
participated in visits to Capitol Hill while in Washington, DC,
for the AAAAI Board of Directors meeting in November 2013

Letter to Sebelius Immunotherapy

Dr. Cox and Senator Bob Casey (D-Pa).