A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Dead on Arrival

Dear Research Advocate:

The president’s budget for FY15 was released Tuesday. While mostly symbolic, the president’s funding recommendations often serve as the “first bid” in the negotiations that result in agency funding levels. That is why the president’s proposals for the agencies that collectively drive medical progress and play such a pivotal role in the health and safety of Americans are of such concern.

The president’s budget proposes only slight increases for NIH, FDA and NSF in FY15, and significant cuts for CDC and AHRQ. As I said in The Huffington Post and in other media, President Obama’s budget does not reflect the potential the U.S. has to advance scientific discovery or medical progress; he sets the bar — and the nation’s sights — much too low! At a time when our global leadership is on thin ice, America needs a bold plan to advance research and innovation. See Research!America’s statement on the president’s budget here.

We shouldn’t expect Congress to meet the president’s budget for the agencies that conduct R&D, we should expect them to exceed it. We must remind Congress that when our nation shortchanges medical and other scientific progress, we are not being fiscally responsible but making an already bad situation worse. Whether the measure is health, safety, security or prosperity, we’re not going to accelerate progress if science and innovation is working with one hand tied behind its back. So please take the time now, while the process is moving, to ask your representatives to make the case for research with the Appropriations Committee. Click here to send a message to Washington.

But appropriations is only one — albeit crucial — part of the challenge.

Last week, Research!America joined the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network for a New York City media event to discuss “A World Free From Cancer.” While debating funding, regulation, clinical trials and innovation, panelists shared their perspectives on the possibility of eradicating cancer in the near future. Dr. Robert Hariri of Celgene emphasized that Americans cannot expect to solve 21st century problems with 20th century solutions. That’s why advocates must continue to support NIH and FDA efforts to advance regulatory science and push for updating regulations and risk/benefit decisions that are better aligned with rapid-pace medical progress and patient risk tolerance. Advocates, industry and government must work together to speak with one voice to assure we make faster progress.

Another regulatory issue bearing on the pace of medical progress and the benefit patients derive from it concerns proposed changes to the rules surrounding Medicare Part D prescription drug formularies. The changes appear to dismiss a spectrum of medical breakthroughs that have shifted the health care paradigm from patient population-based protocols to a far more advanced personalized medicine model. Not only would these proposed changes interfere with the ‘medicine-matching’ process crucial for patients with depression and other illnesses, but by treating advanced medical knowledge as discretionary to coverage decisions, they flirt with creating a precedent that could mute the incentive for investing in future medical progress. You can read the comments we have submitted on this topic here.


Mary Woolley

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