Tag Archives: AIDS

The sequester’s a public health hazard

Excerpt of an op-ed by columnist George F. Will, published in The Washington Post.

“The capacity to blunder slightly is the real marvel of DNA. Without this special attribute, we would still be anaerobic bacteria and there would be no music.”

— Lewis Thomasgeorge_will

The pedigree of human beings, Thomas wrote, probably traces to a single cell fertilized by a lightning bolt as the Earth was cooling. Fortunately, genetic “mistakes” — mutations — eventually made us. But they also have made illnesses. Almost all diseases arise from some combination of environmental exposures and genetic blunders in the working of DNA. Breast cancer is a family of genetic mutations.

The great secret of doctors, wrote Thomas — who was a physician, philosopher and head of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center — “is that most things get better by themselves; most things, in fact, are better in the morning.” But many things require intelligent interventions — cures. So, to see the federal government at its best, and sequester-driven spending cuts at their worst, visit the 322 acres where 25,000 people work for the National Institutes of Health.

This 60th anniversary of the Clinical Center, the NIH’s beating heart, is inspiriting and depressing: Public health is being enhanced — rapidly, yet unnecessarily slowly — by NIH-supported research here, and in hundreds of institutions across the country, into new drugs, devices and treatments. Yet much research proposed by extraordinarily talented physicians and scientists cannot proceed because the required funding is prevented by the intentional irrationality by which the sequester is administered. Continue reading →

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A do-nothing Congress isn’t healthy

Op-ed by The Honorable John Edward Porter, Research!America Chair and former U.S. Representative (1980 – 2001) published in CNN.

John Edward PorterAt every congressional recess, the question remains: What has Congress accomplished to advance medical innovation, or for that matter any of our national priorities?

A ritual of leaving town with no meaningful action on pressing issues seems to have taken hold as lawmakers once again meet with voters in their districts. Indeed, much will happen during this break, but as elected officials hold yet another town hall meeting, Facebook or Twitter chat or public event, thousands will be diagnosed with cancer or get the dreaded confirmation from a physician that they or a loved one has Alzheimer’s disease. Thousands will suffer a heart attack or stroke, and thousands of parents will learn that their child has a rare disease.

Researchers are racing against the clock to identify a new gene or molecule that could lead to the next medical breakthrough and bring us closer to cures and new therapies to halt disease.

Time is of the essence in the scientific community, but unfortunately, our elected leaders continue to squander precious time in political, ideological battles that yield little or no results. Is this the Congress you elected? This is not the first elected body to tackle formidable challenges, but it may be the first that has failed miserably in addressing critical issues that will have short- and long-term implications for the health and well-being of Americans.

Spending bills to fund the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and other agencies in the next fiscal year remain in limbo as sequestration, across-the-board spending cuts enacted in March, tightens its grip on medical innovation. As a result of these mindless budget cuts, researchers are delaying or scrubbing promising studies. Institutions across the country have closed labs, reduced their work forces and implemented hiring freezes. Young scientists are rethinking their career paths or moving abroad to countries that have accelerated investments in research. Continue reading →

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: SOTU and – now what??

Dear Research Advocate,

Setting a breathtaking goal for Congress and the nation, the president called for returning our nation to levels of R&D investment not seen since the height of the space race in his State of the Union address Tuesday evening. He spoke of the potential to defeat Alzheimer’s and to assure an “AIDS-free generation”; and he used the human genome project to illustrate the economic as well as human return on taxpayer investment in research. We were thrilled that the president listed medical research among the nation’s top priorities – along with defense, education and energy – right at the beginning of his speech, when he described the devastating damage that sequestration would do to the things the nation values most. This is, I think, an indication that the hard work of the research advocacy community in driving our research-as-a-priority message is paying off, just as we saw in media coverage of the Save Research advocacy campaign we launched after the election with many of our partners in advocacy. Our voices are being heard! It is time to thank the president, and it’s also time to urge Congress to take action. We must strongly advocate avoiding any proposal that threatens U.S. biomedical innovation, public or private sector-driven. See highlights of the science portions of the president’s speech and our press statement.

Speaking, as the president did, of Alzheimer’s, did you know that the annual cost of Alzheimer’s is $200 billion? By 2050, that number is expected to rocket to $1 trillion! To address the looming threat of across-the-board funding cuts, USAgainstAlzheimers has launched a major advocacy push, sending thousands of letters to Congress, leading a sign-on letter of researchers, and running a full-page ad in Roll Call.

As pointed out by columnist Robert McCartney in The Washington Post, television and radio this morning, biomedical research will be hurt by sequestration as much as defense, right here in the National Capital Area. He quoted NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins extensively and also cited Children’s National Medical Center’s Dr. Eric Hoffman, whose important work on muscular dystrophy has stalled as NIH has held back funding until decisions are made by Congress. Meanwhile, patients are waiting. The idea that Dr. Hoffman’s work – and all of medical research, as well as education, energy and defense and much more – is considered “discretionary” is more than revealing, it is unacceptable to Americans.

Fighting to avoid sequestration, the defense and non-defense communities held a joint event this week to highlight the dangers posed by sequestration, as reported in CQ Roll Call. Leaders from the aerospace industry along with members of the university, health, and science community released new estimates demonstrating that sequestration could rob the American economy of 2 million jobs, causing another recession. Also bringing the message home, Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) held a Q&A session with federal workers at the NIH, saying that sequestration would lead to the loss of 100,000 jobs, considering both Bethesda-based NIH employees and businesses that work with them.

Have you brought the message home, so that your representative and senators are hearing it and will act? We can help – contact your representatives and email our science policy director, Max G. Bronstein, to learn about other ways boost your engagement. Only 15 days until the March 1st sequestration deadline.

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley

Statement from Research!America President and CEO Mary Woolley on the State of the Union Address

February 13, 2013

Research!America applauds President Obama for underscoring medical research as a national priority, along with defense and education. We’re gratified that he stressed the brutal impact of sequestration, across-the-board cuts, to medical research and reminded the country of goals within the reach of science, such as the promise of an “AIDS-free generation” and cures for deadly and debilitating diseases like Alzheimer’s. Issuing a clear challenge to the nation and the Congress, he spoke of the need to increase investments in science and innovation to a level “not seen since the Space Race.”  We agree that educating young people in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) is a necessity to maintain a robust research ecosystem that fosters ingenuity and creativity and strengthens our global competitiveness. The president’s emphasis on STEM and medical research reflects the sentiments of large majorities of the American public and should not only register bipartisan applause lines but translate into the elimination of sequestration and the launch of a new Moon Shot befitting the global R&D leadership of our nation.

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Majority of Americans Say the New Congress Should Take Immediate Action to Expand Medical Research

New Poll Data Summary reveals concerns among Americans about medical progress even in tight fiscal environment

Alexandria, Va.January 9, 2013America Speaks, Volume 13, a compilation of public opinion polls commissioned by Research!America, features timely data about Americans’ views on issues related to biomedical and health research. A majority of Americans (72%) say the new Congress and the President should take action to expand medical research within the first 100 days of the 113th Congress.  Public support for increased government spending on medical research holds particular relevance as Congress considers whether to further delay, eliminate or permit “sequestration,” a budget cutting process that – if it moves forward – would mean drastic cuts in funding for medical research.

“Americans will be looking closely at the actions of the new Congress to see whether lawmakers support policies that will accelerate research and scientific discovery,” said Research!America Chair John Edward Porter. “We’re on the brink of finding new treatments and cures for many deadly and debilitating illnesses. Congress must act to ensure that funding for research is sufficient to address current and emerging health threats.”

Most Americans believe accelerated investments in medical research should be a priority, yet nearly 60% say elected officials in Washington are not paying close attention to combating the many deadly diseases that afflict Americans. An overwhelming majority of Americans (83%) also believe that investing in medical innovation has a role in creating jobs and fueling the economy.

When asked about stagnant federal funding levels for research and the impact to science and technology, a wide majority (85%) said they were concerned.

Americans also expressed concerns about U.S. global competitiveness in the near future. Less than half (41%) believe the U.S. will be the world leader in science and technology in the year 2020. In addition, almost half (48%) do not believe the U.S. has the best health care system in the world.

“Consistently, our polls have shown that Americans value research and believe it’s part of the solution to what ails us,” said Research!America President and CEO Mary Woolley. “The return on investment is demonstrated in medical breakthroughs that have made diseases that were considered a death sentence into treatable conditions.”

Twenty years ago, AIDS ranked as the number-one health concern among Americans. Since then, research has saved countless lives and continues to drive progress. The number one health concern in 2012 was the cost of health care.

Among notable highlights in the booklet:

  • 78% of Americans believe that it is important that the U.S. work to improve health globally through research and innovation.
  • 70% of Americans believe that the government should encourage science, technology, mathematics and engineering (STEM) careers.
  • Nearly half (48%) believe government investment in health research for military veterans and service members is not enough.
  • 66% of Americans are willing to share personal health information to advance medical research if appropriate privacy protections were used.
  • 75% say it’s important to conduct research to eliminate health disparities.
  • Only 1 in 5 (19%) know research is conducted in every state.

To view America Speaks, Volume 13, visit: http://www.researchamerica.org/uploads/AmericaSpeaksV13.pdf

Research!America began commissioning polls in 1992 in an effort to understand public support for medical, health and scientific research. The results of Research!America’s polls have proven invaluable to our alliance of member organizations and, in turn, to the fulfillment of our mission to make research to improve health a higher national priority. In response to growing usage and demand, Research!America has expanded its portfolio, which includes state, national and issue-specific polling. Poll data is available by request or at www.researchamerica.org.

Online polls are conducted with a sample size of 800-1,052 adults (age 18+) and a maximum theoretical sampling error of +/- 3.2%. Data are demographically representative of adult U.S. residents. Polling in this publication was conducted by Zogby Analytics and Charlton Research Company.

About Research America

Research!America is the nation’s largest nonprofit public education and advocacy alliance working to make research to improve health a higher national priority. Founded in 1989, Research!America is supported by member organizations representing 125 million Americans. Visit www.researchamerica.org.

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