By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—New guidelines by the American Academy of Pediatrics on RSV treatment will “pit premature babies’ families and care providers against the AAP in a showdown about who deserves preventative care,” according to Dr. Suzanne Staebler a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner in Atlanta, Georgia.
The CDC describes RSV as, “Respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, is a respiratory virus that infects the lungs and breathing passages. Infection can be severe in some people, such as certain infants… In fact, RSV is the most common cause of bronchiolitis (inflammation of the small airways in the lung) and pneumonia in children under 1 year of age in the United States.”
Rep. Dr. Jim McClendon, R-Springvillle, has been fighting for the last two years to pass legislation to require the State’s Medicaid Agency to develop and implement policies and procedures to streamline the process for access to covered outpatient drugs for premature infants and ensure timely and appropriate access to care for premature infants.
Yet, Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn, has also been battling to deny the State’s children access to the only preventative treatment that would ensure that new-borns survive an RSA infection. Hubbard has used the AAP’s controversial guidelines as an excuse to block legislation that would provide the need treatment to our State’s most vulnerable citizens.
“If adopted, the new AAP guidelines would take our standard of care to less than that of 36 other major countries,” said McClendon.
Alabama ranks 49 in infant mortality, statistics released by the Alabama Department of Public Health show that the State had a infant mortality rate of 8.9 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2012.
These numbers represent the deaths of 519 infants who did not reach 1 year of age. There were 58,381 live births in Alabama in 2012.
“Alabama’s high infant mortality rate is alarming and use of this drug can bring it down. It is time for Alabama to address this issue, and one way is to arm pediatricians with wider access to this drug,” said McClendon.
Dr. Staebler says, that a monthly injection of Palivizumab provides premature babies with enough antibodies to fight off RSV. “Monthly injections throughout the RSV season (roughly November to March) help to decrease the severity of RSV and related respiratory tract infections, hospitalization and longer-term complications,” according to Staebler.
Both the Senate and House Health Committee have provided bipartisan support for McClendon’s bill, but still the State fails to act to provide the needed medication to healthcare providers. McClendon has tried to pass legislation to circumvent the current cumbersome approval process and allow the State’s medical professionals to administer drugs in accordance with FDA guidelines, which are more generous than those advocated by the AAP.
Dr. Staebler, says that, “AAP’s eligibility guidelines disproportionately affect minority and low-income families, whose babies are more likely to be born premature.”
McClendon, says he applauds the Department of Public Health’s efforts to reduce the infant mortality rate in Alabama and that he would like to work with the department’s leadership to help insure that at-risk infants have access to medical care necessary for them to survive their first year.