August is many things—the end of summer, back to school season, and it is also Psoriasis Action Month. This month serves as an important opportunity to highlight the challenges and needs of all those who are currently living with psoriasis.
A national and global challenge
In the United States alone, more than 8 million people are living with psoriasis, and worldwide, it’s more than 125 million. Odds are that if you don’t know someone in your own life who is affected by psoriasis, you have a friend or colleague who is.
Some of those on the frontlines working toward a cure for psoriatic disease are directly impacted themselves. As was recently reported in The Wall Street Journal, Ryan Moslin, Ph.D., Principal Scientist at Bristol Myers Squibb, uses a drug he helped invent after 12 years of research.
Bio.News recently caught up with the National Psoriasis Foundation’s (NPF) Vice President of Government Relations and Advocacy, Jason Harris. We asked him about the importance of this month and how folks can do their part in helping to make psoriatic disease history.
The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Bio.News: During this Psoriasis Action Month, what do you hope to achieve both in advocacy efforts and in raising awareness more broadly, including in pushing for the Safe Step Act?
Harris: August is Psoriasis Action Month, and NPF has created toolkits to help people living with psoriatic disease to raise awareness within their communities and to learn more about the resources NPF can provide to support them. Concurrently, Congress is out of session in August and [members of the] house representatives and senators are back in their home districts and states for the month.
Our top advocates are engaging in district meetings with their congressional legislators while they’re in town. The Safe Step Act was reported out of the Senate HELP Committee this year as part of the [pharmacy benefit manager] PBM package, which is unprecedented progress for the bill. NPF advocates are pushing to increase the cosponsors for the Safe Step Act.
Bio.News: Could you explain how potential volunteers can effectively use NPF’s Summer Advocacy Volunteer Hub to engage with legislators on issues of interest to patients living with psoriasis?
Harris: The Summer Advocacy Volunteer Hub is a one-stop shop for anyone interested in pursuing a meeting or attending a local town hall with their house representative or senator. We provide details on how to request a meeting or find a town hall, how to discuss the Safe Step Act and tie it to their story, and how to follow up to maximize the chances the legislator will take action. To use the hub effectively, we suggest advocates let us know they’re embarking on the process, so we can provide support as needed along the way.
Bio.News: For those who may not know, could you please explain the challenges psoriasis patients face, such as step therapy and dealing with prior authorization, and how this ties into broader issues related to PBMs?
Harris: People living with psoriatic disease experience an undue burden of step therapy, which delays their access to care and can lead to severe health consequences. One study found that the top 17 commercial plans applied step therapy that was more stringent than treatment guidelines over 99% of the time. Our Patient Navigation Center fields calls from patients concerned about step therapy and other prior authorization issues nearly every day. It is crucial that Congress act quickly to empower patients in their own medical decision making by passing laws like the Safe Step Act which ensure access to a timely reasonable exceptions process.
Among patient groups, the Safe Step Act is the most popular part of the senate (PBM) package. It was included because PBMs are the entities designing formularies, and they do it based off of business decisions like rebates rather than medical need. Some of the PBM reform policies are somewhat esoteric, and the Safe Step Act is a key, patient-centered component that will improve access where patients will feel it most.
Are you looking to do your part as a volunteer? Click here to learn more about how you can help the National Psoriasis Foundation get patients’ needs heard and work toward curing psoriatic disease.