Tag Archives: Alzheimer

Fighting for American Priorities

Tell the House to Reject the House Majority’s Budget Plan

In response to President Obama’s budget proposal, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI-01) released a budget plan titled, “The Path to Prosperity.” In this 10-year budget, Rep. Ryan proposes drastic cuts to the funding used to support medical progress among other national priorities. If this budget became law, it is a near certainty that our nation would lose its global lead in science and innovation, undermining jobs, sabotaging any progress toward economic stability, and stalling research that is addressing deadly and disabling health threats.  Research reduced cancer deaths among children by 2.1% per year from 1975 to 2010 — an overall decline of more than 50%. Is that going to be the end of the story when cancer and other childhood illnesses still take the lives of hundreds of thousands of children each year? When the incidence of Alzheimer’s is exploding, when chronic conditions are proliferating, when Parkinson’s and ALS and MS and thousands of other illnesses are causing untold suffering?  The Ryan budget laser focuses on one type of government spending, not even the largest or fastest-growing segment of the budget, and cuts it so deeply that it would place desperately needed medical progress on hold and our nation’s very future at risk. Send a message to your representative in the House and say NO to the Ryan budget.

Take action now!

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Cuts in research funding undermine medical innovation

Op-ed by The Honorable John Edward Porter, Research!America Chair and former U.S. Representative (1980 – 2001) published in McClatchy-Tribune newspapers, including the Great Falls Tribune, News & Observer, Times Herald Record and Billings Gazette.

John Edward PorterThe health of Americans and future generations is at risk. This seems incredulous given our track record in medical discoveries that improved health care and saved lives over the years. But our nation’s research ecosystem is now in a precarious state as a result of federal policies and proposals that continue to undermine medical innovation.

Sequestration, the across-the-board spending cuts for federal agencies, is a self-inflicted wound on our country and the pain is acutely felt by patients who cannot afford unnecessary delays in the development of new therapies and cures for their illnesses.

In short, the entire country is hurting and as much as we would like to believe medical progress will continue unabated, we must accept the inevitable consequence of sequestration and other federal actions that muzzle research and innovation – needless deaths, economic decline and challenges to our global competitiveness.

The current political environment lends itself to ideological battles that ignore national priorities. Those battles are draining the budgets of federal agencies that are critical to the sustainment of basic research and private sector innovation. Medical research, which has received overwhelming bipartisan support on Capitol Hill, is now caught in the crossfire of extreme partisanship and illogical decision-making. Continue reading →

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Dying to know more…

Dear Research Advocate,

The first presidential debate gave us little to go on regarding research for health. Americans are dying to know more – many, quite literally dying – about what either presidential candidate would do to speed up medical progress in the face of Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, ALS and the host of other disabling and deadly health threats that breed suffering, compromise independence and drive spiraling health care costs. Add to that the pivotal role medical innovation plays in our economy, and Americans absolutely deserve to know whether candidates will champion or shortchange it. All of us must say to candidates: Tell us what you will do, share your views – candidates for president and Congress alike. Take 30 seconds to ask your candidates to speak out and then help more by sharing this alert.

Another issue that the candidates failed to adequately address in last night’s debate was sequestration, and that’s why we must continue to speak up. If more of us get involved we can shift the halt-the-sequester momentum into high gear – check out the following articles and then write your own op-ed: Athens (GA) Banner-HeraldMontgomery Advertiser. The Los Angeles Times highlighted a new AAAS report on the impact of sequestration (read here). The report provides estimates of just how much states stand to lose under sequestration, with California alone being deprived of over $11 billion in R&D funding over a 5-year period! How much does your state stand to lose? Find out via FASEB’s outstanding series of new fact sheets that illustrate the importance and impact of NIH funding close to home. Take a moment to find the fact sheet for your state or district and use this information in your advocacy efforts.

For years, our public polling has shown that Americans strongly support incentives for companies that are investing in R&D – investments that create jobs and foster innovation. An article recently published in The Atlantic drives this point home, calling on policy makers to not only expand the R&D tax credit but to make it permanent. This is a common-sense policy solution that would enhance our competitiveness at a time when other nations are boosting investment in research and creating new incentives to encourage the private sector to invest. We need to step up, or we will be left behind.

And, speaking of the global nature of science as well as economic interdependence, we are eager to hear the announcements of the Nobel Prizes, starting this coming Monday. Here’s a suggestion: Take the opportunity of the announcements to make a phone call, send an email or write a letter to the editor to call attention to the importance of maintaining strong support of science in this country. Doing so could prove critical in reversing the perception among Capitol Hill staffers that few members of the science community are engaged in the public policy conversation – volume matters and that means every one of us needs to step up.

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Reading between the Lines and then Taking Action

Dear Research Advocate,

As you know, the Republican Party Platform was unveiled Tuesday during the convention in Tampa. There are direct references to medical and health research and other statements that — if not explicit — definitely imply the need for such research. We can draw from both to enhance our advocacy efforts.

The following exemplifies the direct and indirect nature of the platform’s embrace of medical and health research:

“We support federal investment in health care delivery systems and solutions creating innovative means to provide greater, more cost-effective access to high quality health care. We also support federal investment in basic and applied biomedical research, especially the neuroscience research that may hold great potential for dealing with diseases and disorders such as autism, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. If we are to make significant headway against breast and prostate cancer, diabetes and other killers, research must consider the special needs of formerly neglected groups.”

The platform explicitly supports federal funding for basic and applied medical research, and, if I am interpreting the text correctly, acknowledges the need to address health disparities as part of the nation’s research agenda. This statement also implies the need for health services research (HSR) to devise “solutions” that improve health care access, cost-effectiveness and quality. Unfortunately the House Labor-H appropriations bill precludes NIH funding for health economics research — a key subset of HSR — and virtually zeroes out the budget of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the main funder of HSR. The platform provides advocates fresh talking points as final appropriations decisions are made later this year.

The Republican platform also states: “Even expensive prevention is preferable to more costly treatment later on.” While the rest of the statement focuses on personal responsibility, research plays an undeniable role in effective prevention. Vaccines, the nicotine patch, successful drug and alcohol addiction treatment programs … all are grounded in research. Advocates can segue directly from the platform to the importance of prevention research at CDC and other agencies … and we should. Three other sections of the platform are noteworthy. It goes hard on the FDA, asserting that it needs significant reform. The platform does not mention funding, but there is a logical connection here. Patient groups, scientists, industry and FDA leaders themselves are all committed to strengthening the agency and are working hard to accomplish just that. Support for FDA reform cannot logically be decoupled from support for FDA funding, a point that must not get lost in the reform debate.

Second, the platform advocates making the R&D tax credit permanent. Bravo!  We should increase and make other improvements to the credit as well.

Finally, the platform opposes embryonic stem cell research. Not a surprise, but a disappointment.  Proponents must keep fighting this battle, drawing strength from the recent court victory in which President Obama’s executive order was once again upheld.

There is much to applaud in the Republican platform when it comes to federal support for both medical and health research. Let’s take that and run with it. In an article that appeared this week in Forbes, John Zogby discusses the results of our recent national poll. He focuses on the exceptional level of agreement between different demographic and ideological subsets of the American population on issues related to health and medical research. We see that reality reflected in many of the planks in the Republican platform. Indeed most of the results from our poll will not surprise you (except, perhaps, the fact that a majority of Americans of all stripes would pay a dollar more per week in taxes if they knew it was going toward medical research), but it’s a fact that most policy makers have not embraced medical progress as a goal worthy of mentioning in campaign speeches or on their campaign websites. Platforms aside, this gives Americans no basis by which to evaluate whether individual candidates will champion or chop research funding and no assurance that they will take medical innovation into account when evaluating policy decisions that could stimulate or stifle it. Your Candidates-Your Health is an important way that candidates can make their opinions known about medical and health research. Advocates can do their part by attending town halls, visiting campaign offices, writing op-eds and letters to the editor, and using these polling results to convince candidates that promoting medical progress should be one of their core missions.

We have our work cut out for us, but we will succeed if we do more than parse the rhetoric — we have to take action!

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Sequencing, Sequestration and Sputnik

Dear Research Advocate,

What do sequencing and sequestration have in common, besides being mysterious words to most people? It’s pretty simple: We won’t have more of the former if the latter takes place. Why isn’t it a Sputnik moment to learn that there is more sequencing capacity at Beijing Genome Institute than we have total capacity in our country? And, to learn that the Chinese government is subsidizing the cost of sequencing so that it is fast becoming the go-to place for industry and academia worldwide? It’s time for advocates to talk this up so that policy makers will once again plus-up research as a U.S. priority.

Jeffrey Zients, the Acting Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, is among those (few, to date) talking about the damaging consequences of sequestration. His op-ed in Politico calls on Congress to stop sequestration’s automatic spending cuts – never really meant to happen but now a very real possibility – pointing out what is at stake: “Research and development, critical to our long-term economic growth, would also be undermined …” The day after this article hit the papers, The Boston Globe published a piece detailing the potential impact of the sequester on health research, citing Research!America’s report on the topic. You, too, can and should spread the alarm about sequestration before the unintended scenario becomes the reality that some have estimated will result in a 41% decline in NIH purchasing power since 2004 – and will continue to drive industry to shutter R&D in this country, with losses for jobs, new business development and, ultimately, losses for patients.

Sometimes critics of research expenditures – whether taxpayers and their representatives or business investors – criticize the time lag before research pays off. There are plenty of ways to push back on that skepticism, including exciting advances covered in front-page stories this week, all authored by Gina Kolata of The New York Times. Today’s article featured groundbreaking Alzheimer’s research from Research!America member Genentech and other collaborators, which may finally hold the key to developing an effective course of treatment to stave off the disease. A series of Kolata articles earlier in the week showcases exciting and life-saving cancer advances at Washington University and other institutions. The reason these articles are front-page news is that research breakthroughs resonate with Americans. You can make the link about the payoff of investment in research when you engage in conversation about these and other health advances in the news.

Also making headlines was a USA Today feature on Ann Romney’s battle with multiple sclerosis and how the struggle has shaped her life. My letter to the editor calls for increasing investment in research and asks candidates to let their views be known on research issues. This is the perfect time to join us in urging the Romney campaign to respond to our Your Candidates – Your Health questionnaire on medical research issues.

Finally, may I ask for three minutes of your time? This is the 53rd of my weekly letters, which means we’ve just passed the one-year mark! Please take a few moments to complete a short questionnaire to help me make these all the more useful to you in the year ahead. Thanks in advance for your feedback.

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley