Vitter asks HHS to stop promoting USPSTF mammo recommendations

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U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-La., has written to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius asking HHS to remove from its website and cease promoting the November 2009 U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommendations related to breast cancer screening and mammography.

In the letter, which was sent May 11, Vitter referred to Section 2713 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act asking the federal government to set aside the USPSTF recommendations.

“The fact that these recommendations are still being presented to the general public as ‘current’ is only serving to further confuse women on this critical issue,” wrote Vitter. “The recommendations were ill-conceived from the start – developed via a process without transparency, without input from those with experience and expertise in the field, and without due regard for the thousands of lives that could be impacted by the recommendation. They represent a step backward in our fight against a horrible disease and the taxpayers’ dollar must not be spent in further promotion of them.”

The American College of Radiology (ACR) released a statement supporting Vitter and pointing out that the recommendations run counter to those of the American Cancer Society, the ACR and the Society of Breast Imaging, and “have undoubtedly confused many women to the point that they have refused needed care.”

“The USPSTF process needs to be fundamentally changed to ensure that those most knowledgeable in the subject matter have significant input regarding recommendations of the USPSTF,” said James H. Thrall, MD, chair of the ACR Board of chancellors. “Allowing a small group of people, who may or may not have any expertise in the field on which they are making recommendations, to publish periodic recommendations in a medical journal or via web posting, and have those serve as health coverage policy is unacceptable and potentially dangerous. I think these particular USPSTF recommendations have been shown to be an example of how health care policy should not be done moving forward.”