Hurd on the Hill: Unleash the Innovators

June 15, 2015
Hurd on the Hill: Local Columns

Let me ask you a question. Would you rather our best scientists spend their time in an office writing research grant proposals or in the laboratory finding a cure for cancer? This week in Congress we’re working on bipartisan legislation which promotes less of the former and more of the latter.

America may be the health care innovation capitol of the world, but antiquated drug and device approval processes and other regulatory hurdles are standing in the way of truly outstanding innovations that will allow us to stay at the forefront in an increasingly competitive global market.  Breakthroughs for diseases treatment and management can save lives, but if our laws don’t keep pace with advances in science and technology, patients will continue to suffer not only at the hands of a cruel disease, but from simple government inefficiency.

The 21st Century Cures Act will help the discovery, development and delivery of life-saving and life-improving therapies move through the maze of bureaucracy in several ways. First, it facilitates increased collaboration between researchers by removing current barriers standing in the way. The data created during research and clinical trials can be shared and analyzed, while still protecting the privacy of patients. The more that experts can share their research and data, the faster a cure may be found.

This bill will also allow the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to work closely with patients who are using drugs still going through the regulatory process, taking their perspectives into consideration while helping to understand what works and what does not. This will help move safe medicines that help those in need to the market in a more timely fashion.

21st Century Cures also advances personalized medicine by the use of development tools such as biomarkers. These tools give researchers early assessments of how well a drug is working for a patient, allowing them to be nimble in their reactions and provide a more personalized and effective approach in continued therapy.

Clinical trials will be modernized, allowing scientists to produce faster results through more targeted research. Researchers will be able to screen patients to look for genetic markers for these targeted trials and make use more modern statistical and data tools. This has already been used to great effect in the treatment of specific forms of breast cancer treatments and is being looked at as a model for future trials.

Unnecessary red tape that surrounds the development of new medical apps will also be removed, unleashing the innovation that America is known for. There is so much potential in these apps for not just improving health care, but also giving people the ability to take control of their own health care.

For rural areas, there will be additional support for the innovation we need that will allow patients to communicate with their doctors even when they are miles apart. In many cases, the fastest way for a doctor in the 23rd Congressional District of Texas to assess a patient’s needs may be over an online video chat. This approach will allow patients to see physicians who are leaders in their respective fields without needing to travel, increasing access to care and driving down costs at the same time. Real lives may be saved by simply moving beyond the current way of seeing your doctor and adopting ‘digital house calls’ instead.

This legislation will also provide a way to aggressively pursue cures for rare and devastating diseases by giving new economic incentives to develop therapies for serious and life threatening conditions that the market previously could not support.

In addition to the 21st Century Cures Act, we will also vote to repeal the Medical Device Tax contained in the Affordable Care Act. This is a tax that has destroyed jobs and suppressed innovation by increasing costs on manufacturers of everything from replacement joints to surgical gloves. Companies, including several based in San Antonio, invest their own money in Research and Development only to have to pay the federal government before they even turn a profit. There has been a bipartisan effort to overturn this tax almost from the moment it was passed, so it’s exciting to see Congress put politics aside and repeal a law that is having such a negative impact on the lives of many Americans.

Ultimately, these are jobs bills that we are passing in Congress this week. Laws and regulations that kill innovation will also stifle job creation in America and send these opportunities to other nations. America has led the global medical device and biopharmaceutical industries for generations, and if we want to keep the best minds here at home, we need policies coming out of Washington that encourage innovation. Doing so means we can save lives, create jobs and make sure our nation stays on top.