ALEXANDRIA, Va.-January 6, 2016-Research!America urges Congress to take action on several research and innovation priorities in 2016 in order to combat costly and devastating diseases that are taking a toll on our nation's health and economy. Congress should act this year to sustain robust funding for federal health agencies, advance medical innovation and mental health legislation, and permanently repeal the medical device tax.
The omnibus FY16 spending bill significantly increased funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and boosted funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Science Foundation (NSF). The additional funds will support innovative projects including precision medicine, Alzheimer's research and efforts to combat antimicrobial resistance. At least two million people in the U.S. are infected each year with bacteria resistant to antibiotics, according to the CDC. By 2050, the cost of Alzheimer's disease and other dementias is projected to rise above one-trillion dollars, and the number of people age 65 and older with Alzheimer's may nearly triple.
The budget for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) was cut by eight percent in the spending bill, further limiting the agency's ability to address costly errors and inefficiencies in health care delivery. Sustainable and predictable investments for AHRQ and other health agencies are critical to accelerating medical progress.
"We turned a corner in 2015 toward restoring the power of research to find solutions to what ails us; now we must ensure that robust funding will be the norm, not the exception, in the years ahead," said Mary Woolley, president and CEO of Research!America. "We must also ensure that health services research is fully supported by elected officials so that we can continue to improve quality of health care for Americans."
The Senate HELP committee is drafting the "Innovations for Healthier Americans Initiative," companion legislation for the 21st Century Cures bill, which passed in the House last year. The measure aims to speed the pace in which new therapies and treatments reach patients. Research!America urges Senate action early this year on legislation that responsibly modernizes regulatory pathways for new drugs and medical devices, and includes mandatory funding for the NIH and FDA. The goal must be to enact meaningful legislation this year.
The tax extenders package signed into law last year includes a two-year suspension of the medical device tax. Repealing the tax this year will catalyze progress towards developing state-of-the-art technologies to advance the health of Americans.
Approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. experiences mental illness in a given year. Policymakers should move forward without delay with legislation that increases funding for research and evidence-based treatments. More than half of Americans (54%) say public investment in mental health research is not enough, a national survey commissioned by Research!America shows. Another public health threat, gun violence, results in the death of 90 Americans each day. Research!America urges Congress to lift the federal ban on funding the CDC to support gun violence research and the development of evidence-based programs to protect citizens.
"Gun violence is a public health emergency that calls for the kind of public health solutions that researchers developed to help reduce automobile deaths and to keep us safe from other inherently dangerous hazards like swimming pools," said Woolley. "Given the rise in mass shootings in our nation, now is the time to make long-overdue changes in public policy, including ending the ban on gun violence research."
Other priorities that policymakers should address this year include examining the drivers of health spending in a manner that takes into account the complex interactions between different cost factors and preserves incentives for medical innovation. A plurality of Americans (44%) say cost of health care is the single most important health issue facing the nation. A holistic approach that looks at the long-term savings made possible through medical innovation can help policymakers avoid counterproductive policy changes, noted Woolley.
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 http://www.researchamerica.org.