A weekly advocacy message from Mary Woolley: What advocates and economists have in common

Mary Wolley

Dear Research Advocate: 
Our Annual Members Meeting and Advocacy Awards Dinner are coming up on March 16. There is still time to register for both the meeting, where we will hear remarks from Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), FDA Commissioner Robert Califf, M.D., and ALS patient-advocate Lorri Carey, and the dinner, where we will be presenting awards to a distinguished group of research and innovation champions and world class advocates. Join us for an inspiring day! 

Yesterday, the Senate HELP committee passed a second set of seven bipartisan “Innovations” bills, which focus on a range of topics including combination products, patient input on all aspects of clinical trials and health IT. See our letter to Chairman Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking Member Murray (D-WA) on the critical role combination products will play in the future of healthcare, and the importance of refining the regulatory pathway for these products. For more on the issue, check out this FDA blog post.

Mandatory funding played prominently into the mark-up, with Democrats demonstrating their support by offering and withdrawing an amendment to add NIH/FDA mandatory funding to one of the Innovations bills. Later, Chairman Alexander took to the Senate floor, reporting that there is bipartisan support for a “surge” of mandatory funding to support several initiatives at the NIH. He emphasized that any mandatory funds must replace existing spending (source to be determined and not easily accomplished) and must be in addition to, “...not at the expense of, a steady increase in the regular discretionary funding..” for NIH. The Chairman concluded, “I look forward to the opportunity of being able to say later this year that the most important bill that the Senate worked on with the House and the President is this 21st Century Cures idea.” The third Innovations mark-up is scheduled for April 6. Please -- don't just stay tuned for a report after that date; advocate with us for getting this bill across the finish line!

Conversations on finding “pay fors” for new funding for the NIH and FDA, whether mandatory or discretionary, too frequently ignore the reality that we are paying right now -- paying a lot -- for the failure to put research and innovation to work at the level they can deliver in finding solutions to what ails us. This week, leading economists penned an open-letter to presidential candidates on the need to curb chronic disease in order to curb runaway health spending. Five winners of Research!America’s Garfield Award, which recognizes groundbreaking health economics research, signed on: Dr. David Cutler, Dr. Sherry A.M. Glied, Dr. Thomas J. Philipson, Dr. Darius Lakdawalla, and Dr. Dana Goldman. 

The economists’ message is really very simple-- if you want to fight the deficit, fight disease. Via our voter education initiative, Campaign For Cures, Research!America and our partners are urging the presidential candidates to spell out their plans. If you haven’t already joined the campaign, do so here.
Mary Woolley

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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