September 18, 2008

Jeff Perlman, Executive Vice President – Government Affairs
Clark Rector Jr., Senior Vice President – State Government Affairs
Robert Kohlmeyer, Manager – Government Affairs

Senate Aging Committee Holds Medical Device DTC Advertising Hearing

At a Senate Special Committee on Aging hearing on direct-to-consumer advertising of medical devices, Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Wis., who chairs the committee, suggested the need for an advertising moratorium on new medical devices. The hearing was heavily stacked with surgeons and opponents of advertising. The panelists appeared primarily concerned that surgeons will be pressured by patients who have seen ads to perform unnecessary procedures to install stents and other devices. As with pharmaceutical advertising, the AAF believes that this concern is unfounded. The only other senator to attend the hearing, Ken Salazar, D-Colo., asked witnesses whether the advertising should be banned. Unfortunately, the First Amendment implications of such a proposal were only briefly mentioned in passing. Witnesses from the FDA and the medical device manufacturers association discussed the "underutilization" of many devices but did not discuss the role of advertising in educating patients and encouraging them to talk with their physicians. According to Chairman Kohl, no legislation has been introduced or is under consideration. The AAF will work to educate members of the committee about the positive impact advertising can have and the First Amendment implications of restricting advertising.
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House Telecommunications Subcommittee Holds Digital TV Transition Hearing

One week after television stations in the Wilmington, N.C., market became the first to broadcast exclusively on a digital spectrum, the House Telecommunications and the Internet Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee held another hearing on the status of efforts made to ensure a smooth analog-to-digital television transition. The hearing was also prompted by a Government Accountability Office report on government agencies' efforts in handling a digital-to-analog converter box coupon program, which found significant flaws in the system. Currently, the $40 government-subsidized coupons expire 90 days after they are issued without any eligibility for replacement. The GAO and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) are concerned that coupon and convertor wait times might cause consumers to temporarily lose television service. Ranking member Cliff Sterns, R-Fla., declared the Wilmington switch a success. Chairman Ed Markey, D-Mass., chided the NTIA for failing to indicate its need for additional funding to replace and redistribute unredeemed coupons.
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House Consumer Protection Subcommittee Holds Phone Card Advertising Hearing

Federal Trade Commission Chairman William Kovacic told the House Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection Subcommittee of the Energy and Commerce Committee that his agency would continue to take aggressive steps toward ensuring all terms and conditions of prepaid phone card marketing are clearly and adequately disclosed, stressing that proposed bills in the House and Senate would provide "an additional remedy to those already available to the Commission." H. R. 3402, introduced by Rep. Elliot Engel, D-N.Y., would require accurate and reasonable disclosure of the terms and conditions of prepaid telephone calling cards and services. The bill is similar to S. 2998, introduced by Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., which had a hearing last week in the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.
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Identity Theft Bill Heads to President

The House and Senate have approved provisions of the Identity Theft Enforcement and Restitution Act as part of H.R. 5938. As passed, the bill will provide law enforcement agencies with new resources for investigating and prosecuting online crime, including cyber extortion, use of malicious spyware, key logging and identity theft. Moreover, the bill allows identity theft victims to seek restitution. Rather than target new technologies, the legislation appropriately provides improved law enforcement tools for targeting criminals and fighting crime. The bill now heads to the White House for the president's signature.
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