Congressman Pete Olson

Representing the 22nd District of Texas

Working Through Gridlock to Find a Path to Cures

December 1, 2016
Op-Ed
Univision

Every American knows someone suffering from a terrible disease such as cancer, Alzheimer's, or heart disease. There are currently 10,000 known diseases (7,000 of which are rare) with treatments for only 500 of them.

According to some estimates, the current process for developing a new treatment and getting it from the research lab to patients can take 15 years and cost more than $1 billion – a frustrating concept for the one in three Americans who suffer from a deadly or debilitating disease. Scientific advancements and breakthroughs are happening faster than ever, but we can do better. We need to invest in medical research so that the U.S. continues to lead the world in health care innovation and a regulatory system that harnesses advancements in science understanding.

Almost three years ago, the House Energy and Commerce Committee launched the 21st Century Cures Initiative, to examine what is needed to accelerate the pace of medical innovation and deliver cures to patients who desperately need them. In consultation with medical researchers and scientific experts, we developed a real plan to encourage scientific collaboration, personalize medicine to develop the best, individualized treatments for patients and ensure America continues to lead the world in medical innovation.

It was a worthy and ambitious goal, and the 21st Century Cures Act is the result of this initiative. After countless hours devoted to roundtables, whitepapers, hearings and drafts, today Cures has bipartisan support and endorsements from over 700 organizations representing the full spectrum of stakeholders, and the strong support of the Administration. It dedicates $6.3 billion in new investments to support priorities like the Cancer Moonshot and Precision Medicine Initiative within the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and to combat prescription drug abuse.

It also provides money to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to advance the agency’s mission and implement the policies in the underlying bill.

This influx of investment will be put towards solving today’s complex scientific problems, fostering medical breakthroughs, and improving public health. From facilitating the development of new antibiotics to fight against superbugs to advancing the use of modern clinical trial designs to the fostering of the next generation of medical researchers, the 21st Century Cures Act will deliver hope and new treatments to Americans in need. While some of the provisions are technical in nature, the real-world impact they will have is not abstract. Patients and families deserve to have their elected officials to respond to their needs. This bill does that.

The legislative package also makes much needed improvements to our mental health care system and is a step forward towards ensuring that individuals with mental and behavioral health conditions get the care they need.

The success of this effort relied on patience and relentless effort by a large group of policy makers, patient advocates, public and private stakeholders, patients and their families. After years of hard work, our bipartisan efforts are paying off. Thanks to the collaboration of our committee leadership, House and Senate leadership, and the dedication of our scientific and medical community, we will make huge strides to help Americans find better cures so they can live longer, healthier lives.

The House passed this bill by an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 392-26 and the Senate is expected to vote on the bill next week. The president has assured us he will sign it into law so that we can expedite the discovery, development, and delivery of new treatments and cures and maintain America’s global status as the leader in biomedical innovation.

Thanks to this bipartisan, creative approach, America can invest in innovation and in the well-being of Americans for generations to come. Now is the time for action, for innovation, and for 21 st Century Cures.

By Rep. Pete Olson U.S. Congress, Texas 22nd District and Rep. Gene Green U.S. Congress, Texas 29th District 

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