On June 24, the Supreme Court issued its decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. The consequences of overturning the 50-year-old precedent established in Roe v. Wade have been profound and swift. At least 24 states have, or will soon have, bans on abortion that could expose rheumatology professionals, pharmacists and, in some cases, patients to harsh criminal and civil penalties. With abortifacient drugs, such as methotrexate, facing more scrutiny, access issues have emerged for rheumatology professionals who depend on these drugs to treat patients with rheumatic disease.
Protecting Rheumatology Patients & Providers
Even as the effects of the decision unfold, it is clear that the ACR has an important role to play in the national discussion. We must work to ensure that patients with rheumatic disease have access to the medications and treatments they need and that rheumatology providers are able to care for their patients as they and their patients deem necessary.
As many of you know, the ACR has a full federal and state advocacy team on staff. We are already working on advocacy strategies to protect the interests of the rheumatology community. We also must work to ensure that the privacy expected in the provider/patient relationship remains intact. To that end, the ACR has created a new Access to Reproductive Health Care Task Force, which I’m leading.
The taskforce consists of rheumatology professionals from around the U.S. It will serve as a rapid response unit to address and provide information on emerging issues following the Dobbs decision. The taskforce has been charged with providing resources and guidance documents and holding a town hall to address many of the questions that members are asking right now. The work of the task force will serve as a foundation for the ACR to develop additional plans of action through relevant committees, including the Government Affairs Committee, the Committee on Rheumatologic Care and others.
As one of the first steps, the ACR will be reaching out to state boards of pharmacy, as well as governors, legislators and other policy makers, to ensure that medications patients use chronically to manage their diseases, even those that may be teratogenic, remain accessible to rheumatology patients and to ensure that safeguards are put in place to protect members of the rheumatology care team and patients from potential penalties when using these drugs to manage rheumatic diseases. Once we have more clarity on these issues, we will work to identify and develop long-term strategic approaches that ensure the provider/patient relationship remains at the center of rheumatology care.