Friday, July 24, 2009

Transplant Heroes and Zeros Wrap-Up

Today is part 5 of a 5-part series. I hope everyone has enjoyed it. I'm gonna mix it up a bit today by mentioning both heroes and zeros in the Tennessee legislature. Since my transplant, I've had the honor of being involved in two pieces of legislation involving transplant issues. One was the 2008 roll-out of the Tennessee Donor Registry, and the second was HB 635 / SB 109 during the 2009 session that would have required Tennessee pharmacists to notify a transplant patient's physician any time immunosuppressants were changed. I'll tell you about some of the heros that have been involved in these two pieces of legislation as well as the zeros.

  1. State Senator Beverly Marrero (D - Shelby Co.) - while her views are usually very different from mine on the issues, she was instrumental in the passage of the Tennessee Donor Registry bill.
  2. State Senator Diane Black (R - Robertson and Sumner Co.'s) - strong supporter of the registry bill and State Senate sponsor of SB 109, the physician notification bill for immunosuppressant changes.
  3. State Representative Debra Maggart (R - part of Sumner Co.) - supporter of the registry bill and State House sponsor of HB 635, the house version of the physician notification bill for immunosuppressant changes.

State Representatives Mike Turner and Gary Odom (D's - both cover parts of Davidson Co.) - In April 2009 during the sub-committee hearing for HB 635 (notification bill), I witnessed these two "gentlemen" act like anything but public servants. During testimony by Dr. Beau Kelly of Vanderbilt Hospital's Transplant Unit, these two jokers got up and moved around the hearing room, talked amongst themselves, and laughed and goofed-off. Earlier, the sub-committee members had made it clear that they would like to hear from a transplant physician, but when Dr. Kelly testified these two yahoos acted like school boys and didn't pay attention to his testimony. At a minimum they were unprofessional, but in my opinion they were rude. Either way, they were out of line. As a transplant recipient, I was offended because their behavior said to me that they do not care about transplant issues. Therefore, not only do they get a zero, I'm gonna give them the same award TDS got yesterday - THE DOUBLE ZERO (00).

.... on State Rep. David Shephard (D - Dickson and part of Hickman Co.'s) - The physician notification bill, HB 635 / SB 109, did not have the votes to make it out of the sub-committee because of the pressure applied to the sub-committee members by the pharmacy association. However, a compromise was reached which kept the bill from failing completely. The terms of the compromise are :
  1. Rep. Shephard and Rep. Maggart and the pharmacy community have agreed to work together to further educate pharmacists across the state on the sensitivities of transplant patients and all the issues surrounding the substitution of anti-rejection drugs.
  2. Rep. Shephard and Rep. Maggart will work together to ask the Tennessee Pharmacists Association and other pharmacy organizations in Tennessee to conduct continuing education training on organ transplant issues throughout the remainder of 2009 and early 2010.
  3. Rep. Shepard will assist in having a transplant physician speak at the Tennessee Pharmacy Association annual meeting (summer '09) and other pharmacy organization meetings on transplant issues and issues that may arise from anti-rejection drug substitutions between manufacturers.
  4. Rep. Shephard and Rep. Maggart will develop legislation over the summer to create a list of critical dose or Narrow Therapeutic Index drugs to be included on a Tennessee list that would require notification or consultation with physicians prior to an automatic substitution. This legislation will be ready for the 2010 legislative session.
As of today, the only part of the compromise that has been done is number 3 - Dr. Beau Kelly from the Vanderbilt Hospital Transplant Unit spoke at the Tennessee Pharmacy Association Annual Convention this month. If the compromise is completed, it will be a good thing for transplant patients. However, I am disappointed that in the two months since the compromise was reached this is the only item has been done. I will continue to watch the progress on this, and I hope that Rep. Shephard holds up his end of this deal. If he does, he's a hero. If not, he's another zero. As President Ronald Reagan once said, "trust, but verify", and that's exactly what I plan to do with Rep. Shephard.

The sheepdog is watching .......
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