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Former HHS Secretary Dr. Louis Sullivan, Lt. Gov. Cagle Address Need to Improve Quality of Patient Care

Health Leaders Discuss Health Care Reform, Importance of Achieving Quality in Medicine During 2007 Georgia Health Care Symposium

ATLANTA, Sept. 26 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- State and national leaders focused on health care reform and discussed options to ensure the effective delivery of health care today at the 2007 Georgia Health Care Symposium, held at the Capitol Education Center in Atlanta.

Business and policy leaders attended the event, which was hosted by the Georgia Public Policy Foundation and brought together Georgia Lt. Governor Casey Cagle, Dr. Louis W. Sullivan, former secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Peter Pitts, former associate commissioner for external relations for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and Dr. M.J. Collier Jr., vice president of the Georgia State Medical Association

Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, who is chairman of the Foundation's Board of Governors, focused on the challenges surrounding health care delivery in the state.

"Today's dialogue reinforces the need to increase our commitment to providing quality health care," said Dr. Fitzgerald, a practicing physician in Carroll County.

"Focusing on maximizing outcomes and value for patients, safeguarding the doctor-patient relationship and increasing access to quality care are just a few simple steps we can take to improve the delivery of health care and practice of medicine."

Georgia Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle reiterated his commitment to creating "a consumer-based health care market where individuals and businesses can get the information they need to make educated choices about their health insurance.'

"By giving people more options and by allowing them to purchase insurance directly from companies and agents, we can lift the veil on the complex health insurance market, creating a system that is affordable and accessible to every Georgian," said the Lt. Gov. Cagle, the first Republican elected to Georgia's second-highest office.

Dr. Sullivan maintained that the most appropriate way for patients to receive care is through a symphony of health care delivery, with the doctor acting as the conductor. Each aspect of the "symphony" must be transparent and fully appreciated. Too much emphasis on one particular "instrument," or service area, such as cost alone, drowns out other important elements. Deviating from this approach, he said, leads to discordant, off key health care results for patients.

"The relationship between the physician and the patient is crucial to determining what is best for the individual patient and overall quality of care," Dr. Sullivan said. "Individual patients have different needs and care should be driven by those needs; not solely by costs."

Dr Sullivan went on to stress the importance of the doctor-patient relationship in medical decision-making and the understanding that, in terms of patient care, one size does not fit all.

Panelists also commented on the issue of inappropriate cost-driven drug switching (also referred to as "therapeutic substitution"), which is currently before the Georgia State Legislature and could adversely affect the quality of medical care provided in the state. Under this proposed legislation, pharmacists would have the right to change a patient's medication -- even if it was working well -- and switch the patient to a different medicine in the same class of drugs. Although these medications fall under the same therapeutic class, active ingredients work in different ways and have different side effects and risks.

Panelist Peter Pitts said patients sometimes received "switching letters," which "tout short-term cost savings but provide little or no information about potential health risks."

"A recent study showed that switching patients from Lipitor, which treats high cholesterol, to a different, cheaper medicine resulted in a 30 percent increase in the risk of major cardiovascular events, including heart attacks, strokes and even death," the former FDA associate commissioner said.

He said patients who receive a "switch letter" should consult their physician before doing anything, and he encouraged them to ask very specific questions about safety. The Georgia State Legislature is expected to make a decision on this issue when the session convenes in January.

For more information on Dr. Louis Sullivan's "Symphony of Health Care Delivery" campaign, or to view today's symposium (within 24 hours), please visit

About the Georgia Public Policy Foundation

Formed in the fall of 1991, the Foundation is the only private, nonpartisan research and education organization in Georgia that focuses on state policy issues. The Foundation is a champion of personal and economic freedom and is committed to providing a free market perspective based on the principles of limited government, respect for the lives and property of others, and responsibility and accountability for one's actions.

SOURCE Georgia Public Policy Foundation
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