The much-contested question of whether or not a gene can be patented is under judicial scrutiny once again. The U.S. Supreme Court listened to oral arguments today regarding Myriad Genetic’s patent of two genes, BRCA1 and BRCA2, which have been linked to increased cancer risk in both women and men. The American Civil Liberties Union is challenging this patent on behalf of a group of researchers, medical groups and patients. The timing of the hearing is rather serendipitous, just one day after the 10th anniversary of the completion of the Human Genome Project. The Human Genome Project, a jointly funded venture from the Department of Energy and the National Institutes of Health, has opened the door to a wide array of genetic tests and targeted interventions. Continue reading →
The Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have valuable resources on their websites in recognition of National Minority Health Disparities month. This year, CDC and HHS are focusing on health equity and access to affordable healthcare for all.
Health disparities can result from a number of factors – limited access to quality, affordable health care and preventative services, physical activity and fresh food and produce, and unhealthy environments at home and work.
In 2009, health disparities among African-Americans and Hispanics cost private insurers an additional $5.1 billion. Indirect costs associated with unscheduled absences and productivity losses associated with family and personal health problems cost U.S. employers $225 billion annually. Medical and health research can reduce disparities, improve health care delivery and drive down health care costs. A diverse healthcare work force as well as multicultural training for healthcare professionals will also improve patient care.
Click here to learn more about minority health disparities and what can be done to promote health equity for all Americans. Also visit the CDC’s website to read about programs to reduce minority health disparities; their initiatives include vaccination strategies to reduce childhood infection and diabetes educational programs.
On April 8, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) activated its Emergency Operations Center (EOC) in response to the H7N9 influenza outbreak in China. H7N9 is the newest bird flu virus and has killed 8 and infected 20 other individuals in China. No cases have been found outside China, but the global health community, including CDC, is concerned because this is the first time this type of bird flu has been found in humans. Continue reading →
Statement from Research!America President and CEO Mary Woolley on President Obama’s FY14 Budget Proposal
The president’s FY14 budget proposal offers a lifeline for medical research to replace sequestration’s damaging footprints. The budget includes $31.3 billion for the National Institutes of Health, as well as increases for the Food and Drug Administration and National Science Foundation. These increases would take our nation in the right direction, but we’re concerned that budget proposals from Congress – one from each of the House and Senate – unlike the president, fail to reverse sequestration. Sequestration, 10 years of across-the-board spending cuts, will drag our nation down from its leadership position in research and development as other countries aggressively ramp up investments, attracting American businesses and young scientists concerned that federal funding is on the decline, that the U.S. no longer prioritizes research. Policy makers must start acting in the best interests of this nation and tackle tax and entitlement reform to end sequestration.
Our nation has the most sophisticated medical research ecosystem in the world; yet our elected officials have ignored the short- and long-term consequences of dismantling it via sequestration – more deaths from preventable diseases, increased joblessness and soaring health care costs as more Baby boomers become afflicted with Alzheimer’s, cancer, heart disease and other life-threatening, costly illnesses.
While the president’s budget increases federally-funded medical research, Congress and the administration must look more deeply into the consequences of dramatic cuts to Medicare Parts B and D, which cover crucial medical innovations including prescription drugs, biologics, and medical devices. If Medicare undervalues these preventative, diagnostic, and treatment tools, access and innovation will both suffer. The counterproductive effect of slowed innovation and access barriers could be increased hospital and other health care costs. We’re also disappointed that the president’s budget cuts funding for the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention which is already operating on a severely depleted budget. Cuts to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality which identifies waste and duplication in our health care system while combating deadly medical errors are also a strategic mistake. Policymakers must tread carefully in the coming weeks to avoid decision-making that will endanger the health and economic prosperity of our country.
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Guest post: The MIT Science Policy Initiative visits Capitol Hill to support the future of research & development in the US
Amidst difficult budget negotiations on Capitol Hill, on March 12 and 13, MIT students and postdocs traveled to Washington to sound a warning about the future of science and engineering research in this country if indiscriminate cuts to federal programs continue.
In addition to mostly flat funding in recent budgets, language in the Budget Control Act of 2012 calling for across-the-board cuts—known as “sequestration”—took effect on March 1. These cuts, in addition to the ongoing erosion of federal funding for scientific research, decrease America’s ability to maintain economic growth and remain globally competitive, the 17-person delegation from MIT urged in meetings with Members of Congress and their staff. This funding crisis is creating fiscal shockwaves that will echo through the innovation system for years to come.
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This guest post comes from Edward Grandi, Executive Director of the American Sleep Apnea Association.
The American Sleep Apnea Association, founded in 1990, is the only national nonprofit patient advocacy organization dedicated to educating the public about sleep apnea and supporting patients in treatment.
We are pleased to be a member of Research!America as it gives us an opportunity to help carry forward the message about the importance of sleep in medical research and to join with other organizations to promote the work of agencies like NIH, CDC and AHRQ to members of Congress.
The field of sleep medicine is still relatively young and research into the fundamental causes of sleep disorders is just beginning. The association’s research interests span from basic science into why and how we sleep to understanding clinical applications to improve sleep by correcting disorders. Continue reading →
Chronic Pain Ranks Well Below Drug Addiction as a Major Health Problem in New National Public Opinion Poll
High Percentage of Americans Concerned About Misuse of Pain Medication
A new national public opinion poll commissioned by Research!America shows only 18% of respondents believe chronic pain is a major health problem, even though a majority of Americans (63%) say they know someone who experienced pain so severe that they sought prescription medicines to treat it. Chronic pain conditions affect about 100 million U.S. adults at a cost of approximately $600 billion annually in direct medical treatment costs and lost productivity. Continue reading →
END7 recently released the above video aimed at raising the profile of neglected tropical diseases. END7 is a Global Network campaign which raises money to increase access to NTD treatments and strives to end seven of the most common NTDs by 2020. NTDs affect millions each year, so it is extremely important to increase awareness of these diseases among the public and major political and philanthropic leaders.
In addition to the seven NTDs targeted by the campaign, it is critical that momentum continue to build around research and control efforts for other NTDs such as Chagas, dengue and leishmaniasis. Nature recently published results from a leishmaniasis study in Nepal, which indicated that leishmaniasis drugs are not effective in one-fifth of patients. Although the study doesn’t cite a particular reason for the drug failures, many suspect that the disease is becoming resistant to the most commonly used medication. With treatment failure rates up to an alarming 70% in areas of India and Brazil, drug resistant leishmaniasis is an increasing global concern. In addition, NTDs are on the rise here at home. Texas news outlets reported that 60-80% of animals in southern parts of the state are infected with Chagas, and experts warn that the overall risk of infection has increased. Florida officials have also confirmed that dengue has officially re-established itself in the state.
Despite these challenges, progress is being made in the fight against NTDs. Inviragen, a vaccine research organization based in Colorado, recently began Phase II clinical trials for its dengue vaccine candidate. The vaccine was well tolerated in the first phase of clinical trials and experts hope that Phase II will prove its efficacy and safety in young children.