AAD members and patients submit over 2,000 letters supporting FDA tanning restriction proposal

redbord-kelley.jpgBy Kelley Redbord, MD

In February and March, the Academy asked members and the public to submit letters to the FDA supporting a proposal that would place an age restriction on access to indoor tanning for those under 18 years of age. The proposal also includes a provision that adults using tanning beds would be required to sign a consent form every six months acknowledging the serious health risks of this activity.

The Academy’s Stop Skin Cancer campaign proved to be one of our most successful grassroots initiatives ever. Of the over 12,000 letters submitted to the FDA, more than 20 percent came directly from AAD members and their patients. In total, the AAD campaign generated over 2,000 letters in support of the proposal, which, if finalized by the FDA, would be a monumental step in the fight against skin cancer.

In addition, the American Academy of Dermatology Association (AADA) staff is working with members of Congress and other groups to urge the FDA to finalize the proposal. On March 18, a bipartisan group of 22 members of Congress submitted a joint letter in support of the proposal. In April, we’ll be working with a group of bipartisan U.S. senators to craft a similar letter.

The comment period for the proposal closed on Monday, March 21, and currently more than 9,000 comments have been posted to Regulations.gov.

We are considering similar strategies to influence issues related to the Medicare Fee Schedule and Meaningful Use.

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As chair of the Academy’s State Policy Committee and the Grassroots Advocacy Workgroup, I’ve been involved in many of our previous grassroots efforts. Frankly, I was shocked and delighted by the level of activity generated by this campaign. In addition to helping us secure what will be a historic victory for public health, this campaign has given valuable insight into how to mount successful initiatives on other issues important to the specialty.

In the past, we’ve focused our grassroots campaigns almost exclusively on congressional issues at the state and national levels. This was the first time we targeted an agency. Based on this effort, we are considering similar strategies to influence issues related to the Medicare Fee Schedule and meaningful use.

The success of this campaign was the result of the tireless efforts of our AADA staff. They launched a microsite offering physicians, patients, and the public a quick and easy way to send comments to the FDA. Leading up to this initiative, they worked with a large and diverse network of organizations to secure indoor tanning restriction laws in more than 42 states—demonstrating the widespread recognition about the harms associated with indoor tanning.

The FDA will make an announcement on the final rule in the coming months. Hopefully, the FDA will listen to the thousands of people who voiced their support for the proposal and we’ll soon have a national age restriction on indoor tanning.

In anticipation of the final rule, the AADA is already laying the groundwork to help guide the FDA in enforcement. We have been researching successful enforcement of tanning laws in key states and working closely with state societies, such as the California Society of Dermatology and Dermatologic Surgery, to create a plan that will help shape enforcement on a national scale.

The dermatology community may be leading the charge, but the data, stories, and buy-in from other groups have all been very helpful. We all should be pleased to see the federal government following suit with what could be a major factor in reducing skin cancer rates in the U.S.

Dr. Redbord is chair of the Academy’s State Policy Committee, chair of the Grassroots Advocacy Workgroup, member of the Council on Government Affairs, Congressional Policy Committee, Health Policy & Practice and the Adverse Events Workgroup.