A weekly advocacy message from Mary Woolley: A win for patients, for research and for advocacy

Mary Woolley

Dear Research Advocate,

This holiday season, Congress has delivered a most welcome package with plenty of trimmings for patients and all of us who care about the future of health. The bipartisan deal-making is complete. A final short-term spending measure, expiring Tuesday, December 22, allows the House and Senate time to review and pass a spending bill and tax package before adjourning for the year. These two major pieces of legislation represent a real win for research; the jumpstart we need to restore the NIH budget to robust annual growth and fuel a new era of medical innovation and global leadership in both public and private sectors. As federal policymakers consider how to vote on these bills, an op-ed published in The Des Moines Register earlier this week authored by former Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Research!America Board Chairman and former Representative John E. Porter (R-IL) could not be more timely.

Several key advocacy objectives will be achieved if the omnibus spending bill passes (and we expect it to): the bill provides a $2 billion (6.6%) increase for NIH in FY16, the largest boost - excluding the temporary ARRA increases - since 2003. The CDC and FDA would each receive an increase of 5% over FY15 appropriations. NSF would receive the smallest increase, approximately 1.6%, but the threatened cuts to the social and behavioral sciences directorate did not materialize (the package states FY16 funding for the directorate should be no more than the FY15 level). Unfortunately, AHRQ would receive about an 8% decrease in budget authority compared to last year; a strategic mistake for our nation but a lesser blow than feared, considering that earlier in the appropriations process AHRQ was slated for termination in the House and a 35% reduction in the Senate.

On the tax side, the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act of 2015 includes a two-year moratorium on the medical device tax and will make the R&D tax credit permanent. The medical device pause means that the current 2.3% excise tax will not apply to sales from January 1, 2016 through December 31, 2017, sending a clear signal to innovators that policymakers back their drive to achieve medical progress.  More than 30 years in the making, the strengthened and finally permanent R&D tax credit will provide certainty for innovative businesses. New expansions in the package will allow eligible small businesses to claim the credit against the alternative minimum tax (AMT) and payroll tax liability. These tax policy changes make strategic sense for our nation, and we couldn’t be happier that the House Ways & Means and Senate Finance Committees have championed the way forward.

While Congress is taking positive steps to speed medical progress, the presidential candidates have largely been silent on this critical national priority. Our Campaign for Cures is about bringing the importance of research into the 2016 election conversation -- please join us!

Two NIH-related items: if you haven’t done so already, consider responding to the request for information (RFI) NIH issued to help advance the Precision Medicine Cohort Program.  And in case you missed it, yesterday NIH released their strategic plan for FY16-20. Thanks to comments from stakeholders across the research continuum, this plan establishes a roadmap for advancing scientific discoveries and health as we head into a new decade.

And finally, an excellent example of collaboration between two of our member organizations. BIO and Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy recently announced a new initiative to disseminate best practices for the development of disease-specific patient preference studies, utilizing a newly developed approach, BRAVE-rare diseases (Benefit Risk Assessment, Valuation and Epidemiology for rare diseases). One in every 10 Americans is living with a rare disease. The newest addition to our fact sheet  series explores the implications and possibilities of research for those living with a rare disease. 


Mary Woolley

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