A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Opioid week

Mary Woolley

Dear Research Advocate:

In the multi-faceted context of discouraging new data that shows an increasing incidence of suicide, rapidly rising prescription drug abuse, and widespread pain and suffering due to the heroin epidemic, the House is working on legislation to address opioid abuse, approving more than a dozen bills that will be packaged and considered on the floor in early May. This is important bipartisan progress in combating challenges of frightening scope, extending beyond addressing addiction and abuse to effectively meeting the challenge of chronic pain. Even as we commit to working harder to activate what we know works in terms of prevention and treatment, we must learn much more if we are to tamp down this scourge. Research is - and must be - part of the solution to what ails us.

Also this week, Research!America organized more than 160 research advocates to sign a letter to Senate HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) encouraging Senate passage of an Innovations bill that includes “surge” NIH funding. Because “pay-fors” for this funding are still under negotiation, we sent copies of the letter to the Senate Finance Committee leadership, Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-OR). Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) also received copies, to reinforce the strong message that passage of this package is a huge priority for so many Americans. And the time to take action is now. Thank you to all who joined us in signing the letter; your support is appreciated! And for those who may have missed it, we are collecting signatories for an addendum until COB Monday. 

The path forward for supplemental FDA funding in the Senate Innovations package is particularly tenuous, yet the goals of the Innovations and 21st Century Cures initiative cannot be met if FDA is under-resourced. It is, after all, the agency responsible for bridging development and delivery in the discovery -- development -- delivery pipeline. Stretching FDA more thinly will slow progress, not advance it. Here’s a relevant article. We are working with others in the research community to fight for FDA funding; email Ellie at edehoney@researchamerica.org to get involved! 

Research is clearly part of the solution when it comes to addressing rare diseases. Inspired by personal and professional experience and fueled by her commitment to authentic storytelling, Research!America VP Ellie Dehoney penned a blog post on this topic for Disruptive Women in Health Care. She inspires us all to challenge ourselves to effectively tell our own story about why we do research or why we are advocates. This is “system one” persuasion; it is well established as more likely to drive change than a purely information/data-based “system two” approach. Both are important, but system two rarely accomplishes results on its own. For more on this topic, check out Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. 

HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell has appointed Dr. Andrew Bindman, M.D., to serve as the Director of AHRQ. Dr. Bindman brings an enormous wealth of experience to this important, and challenging, role. Read our statement here.

Finally, with spring blooms and April showers come seasonal allergies for many of us, but what we’re coping with is just a glimpse into what asthma and allergy patients face all year long. Learn more in our two newest fact sheets about how research improves lives for those suffering from asthma and allergies. These two conditions will be the focus of the next installment in our research continuum briefing series on Friday, May 13 at noon (register here). See our briefing flyer for more details, and feel free to pass along the invitation to those in your networks - both on and off the Hill. I hope you’ll also join Research!America member, APHA, for their upcoming webinar series investigating the health impacts of global climate change, including exacerbation of allergies and asthma.



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Without continued support for health research, many of the most promising young scientists, their ideas and a myriad of potentially life-changing scientific breakthroughs will vanish into oblivion.
Paul Marinec, PhD; University of California San Francisco