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Bill Frist and Bart Gordon: Time to pass medical innovation legislation

The Hill

Friday, February 12, 2016

Nearly 14.5 million Americans are living with cancer, and more than 1.7 million are expected to be newly diagnosed this year. Cancer—like many other diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and thousands of others—has no cure. Despite United States investments of more than $1.5 trillion in research and development over the past two decades, we have not seen the same level of progress in the discovery, development, and approval of new cures and treatments for patients. In fact, it takes on average $2 billion and more than a decade to bring a new drug to market.

Thankfully, modernizing the discovery, development, and delivery of medical products has become a key focus for policymakers. This week the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee held the first of three scheduled mark-ups on bipartisan medical innovation legislation, following almost a year of hard work by bipartisan working groups within the Committee. This action follows passage of the 21st Century Cures Act by the House of Representatives last summer.

Also this week, the president released the administration’s FY 2017 budget which includes a funding request to support the Cancer Moonshot initiative led by Vice President Biden. In December, Congress passed a year-end spending package including a $2 billion funding boost for the National Institutes of Health and a $133 million increase for the Food and Drug Administration.

As co-chairs of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s (BPC) initiative on Advancing Medical Innovation, we have a few thoughts of our own.  First, it is critical that we not let up. Cutting edge technologies, treatments, and cures can be life-changing and life-saving for patients in need. Though we enter an increasingly political season in Washington, policymakers can and should build on the considerable hard work that has been done to date and pass medical innovation legislation this year. Second, we have bipartisan solutions right here in front of us. As a former Senator and Congressman, we appreciate the hard work it takes to craft carefully negotiated, bipartisan legislation that seeks input from all potentially affected stakeholders.

KEYWORDS: 21ST CENTURY CURES, BART GORDON, BILL FRIST, CANCER, FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION, FY 2017, SENATE HELP COMMITTEE, VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN