Embracing 21st Century Cures

Congresswoman Susan Brooks represents Indiana’s 5th Congressional District in the House of Representatives. She serves on the House Committees on Education & Workforce, Homeland Security, and Ethics.

Every 67 seconds, someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s Disease. Every 17 seconds, someone in the United States is diagnosed with diabetes. In my home state of Indiana, heart disease is the leading cause of death.

While these statistics are daunting, they’re not insurmountable. The United States has always been a global health pioneer, finding better treatments and even cures to some of the world’s most devastating diseases. Through the 21st Century Cures initiative, the House Energy and Commerce Committee is taking action to spur a new wave of medical breakthroughs that cure diseases.

The timing of this initiative could not be better. America’s edge in medical innovation is being challenged by countries in both Europe and Asia. Unfortunately, our laws and regulations haven’t always kept pace with new developments or our global competitors, causing companies to relocate all kinds of vital medical research projects –and the jobs they provide – abroad.

The goal of the 21st Century Cures initiative is to reverse this trend by bridging the gap between the science of cures and the way we regulate them. This bipartisan effort will thoroughly examine the three stages of bringing a new treatment to market: discovery, development and delivery. Through an extensive information gathering and outreach process, the hope is to identify real policy changes that will accelerate the pace of new cures and treatments. No idea is too big or too small to be put forward and anyone can submit feedback via cures@mail.house.gov.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) has already identified several key priorities worth exploring. These include: ensuring researchers spend more time in labs and less time writing grants; reducing the cost and accelerating the pace of clinical trials; and harnessing the vast potential of digital technology advancements.

Recently, I hosted a life sciences listening session in my own district at the headquarters of Roche Diagnostics in Fishers, Indiana. I was encouraged by the excitement this 21st Century Cures effort has generated among companies dedicated to developing life-enhancing and life-saving products while also employing thousands of Hoosier workers.

Attendees shared many struggles they face in bringing drugs and medical devices to consumers.  First, our Food and Drug Administration (FDA) creates so much unnecessary red tape that when breakthroughs come from American companies, those breakthroughs are often approved and go to market in Europe much faster than they come to market in the U.S.  This allows European consumers to receive the benefits much faster than Americans.  Second, there are incredible inconsistencies in the United States in getting approval for devices.  Some companies are going through full FDA approval processes, which can take in excess of 14 years, while others are able to get their device to market through abbreviated approval processes.  Third, I learned that once a device is approved, companies have had difficulties and delays, lasting over a year, in receiving reimbursement for their device.  It may not sound terrible to the consumer, but we cannot count on our researchers and businesses to remain on the cutting edge of discovery if they cannot be assured they will be compensated.  Lastly, the attendees discussed the need for increased research funding, particularly early stage funding, which I agree with wholeheartedly.  While my constituents shared hard realities with me, they also expressed optimism regarding our ability to address these challenges, and applauded the focus and ambition of the 21st Century Cures initiative. They’re clearly embracing the opportunity the House Energy and Commerce Committee is providing to all stakeholders by sharing their experiences and thoughts.

Like them, I think 21st Century Cures represents a huge step in the right direction. It’s the right initiative at the exact moment when we must take significant steps to unleash the potential of America’s medical researchers and innovators. Ultimately, it will make life better for more Americans and more people living in the community I serve and call home. That’s a goal worth supporting.

— Congresswoman Susan Brooks (R-IN)

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