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Op-Ed: Bipartisan support for speeding cures


Saturday June 20, 2015

It is not often the two of us share a byline, but there is currently legislation moving through Congress that has the potential to help nearly every Kentucky family, and we both agree there is no political affiliation or ideology as important as that.

The 21st Century Cures Act will facilitate the high quality research that leads to ground-breaking cures and streamline the process of delivering those cures to the people who need them most. For patients, families, and loved ones affected by serious conditions, this legislation offers real hope.

As Members of the Energy and Commerce Committee, we are proud to co-sponsor this legislation, which after a yearlong collaboration with patients, advocates, researchers, and innovators, received unanimous support from our committee and has a good chance to be signed into law.

As Kentuckians, we are excited about the impact this bill could have at home, where our Commonwealth consistently ranks among the worst in the nation in rates of heart disease, Alzhemier's, diabetes, asthma, kidney disease, and cancer deaths. As fathers and husbands, friends and neighbors, we are encouraged by the potential to set a new direction for the future of medicine, one that can alleviate the suffering of loved ones and save lives.

The 21st Century Cures Act invests $10 billion over the next five years in research at the National Institutes of Health and at universities around the country -- including here in Kentucky. For the brilliant scientists working to uncover the next generation of cures and therapies, this funding is crucial to the continuation of their important work.

The bill also addresses the antiquated regulations that have brought the cost and time associated with clinical trials to all-time highs, discouraging many innovators from ever starting them. Those same outdated policies have the consequence of delaying or preventing treatments from reaching the patients who need them most.

By contrast, the 21st Century Cures Act prioritizes patients over bureaucracy and encourages a personalized approach to medicine. By utilizing advances in technology, data analysis, and personalized medicine, it will strengthen clinical trials and safely bring more effective drugs and devices to the right patients faster and at lower costs.

Finally, the legislation will remove barriers that are currently standing in the way of a true 21st Century health care innovation system. We've all seen the astounding, exponential growth of technology in recent decades, and that ongoing boom is no accident. Silicon Valley pursues policies that encourage innovation, while the policies governing medical research stymie it.

It's time to change that. Now is the time for a medical technology boom that will usher in a new generation of medical breakthroughs.

Over the past year, we heard from experts across the country about the obstacles to that boom, about the need to invest in research, modernize clinical trial regulations, and remove barriers to communication among patients, researchers, and health care providers. Most important, they needed Congress -- Democrats and Republicans -- to commit to the science of saving lives. This legislation achieves all of these goals.

This isn't a matter of politics; it is a matter of purpose. We came to Washington to help our constituents, to provide hope for the future, and to make the lives of all Kentuckians better. The 21st Century Cures Act gives us that chance.

Ed Whitfield, at right, is a Republican representing the 1st District of Kentucky. John Yarmuth, above, is a Democrat representing the 3rd District.


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