A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: The end of an era? Let’s hope.

Dear Research Advocate:

I don’t always dwell so much on Congress-related actions (or the lack thereof), but this time it’s essential given all the year-end/Congress-end action. So bear with me; it’s important to the future of health and our nation’s prosperity. The “Cromnibus” narrowly passed Congress and has now been signed into law. As I emphasized in last week’s letter, this bill is too little, too late in a multitude of ways, but it’s better than a shutdown, or a year-long continuing resolution. More to the point is that Congress didn’t do better. Members of Congress can allocate more funding to medical research and science and technology broadly. Congress can alter tax and other public policy to more robustly fuel innovation. Taken together, these actions have historically – and can again – grow our still-struggling economy. Along with our partners, all well-aware of the promise of science and of the very real costs of slowing the science enterprise, we will be working in the new year to change the conversation around research and innovation. More to come on that.

An important year-end development is the introduction, in the Senate, of the Dormant Therapies Act to incentivize drug makers to create new pharmaceutical therapies – specifically for unmet medical needs – by providing 15 years of data exclusivity (versus the current five years for small molecule drugs and 12 years for biologics). This legislation is very similar to provisions in the MODDERN Cures Act, which was introduced earlier in the House. The 113th Congress has adjourned, but it is a near certainty that the new Congress will consider like legislation, either as part of the 21st Century Cures initiative or as a stand-alone measure.

And, at last, the Senate confirmed Dr. Vivek Murthy to be the 19th U.S. Surgeon General (see our statement here).

As the holiday season swings into full gear and we reflect on the past year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released their list of the top 10 “Mission Critical” public-health challenges of 2014. The list includes new threats such as Ebola, continuing threats such as HIV/AIDS, laboratory safety and leading causes of death like cardiovascular disease. It is a good reminder of the broad scope and critical importance of the CDC’s role. Sufficient funding isn’t a wish list item, it is fundamental to Americans’ health, security and way of life.

Finally, since next Thursday is the Christmas holiday, I won’t be sending out a letter. But I can’t wait two weeks to write again, so I will be back in touch before the new year. Meanwhile, I extend best wishes for a warm, sweet and gentle holiday season with friends and family.

Mary Woolley

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