Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Putting Cures on the Health Reform Agenda

by Margaret Anderson, Executive Director, FasterCures

For months, we've all heard arguments from all sides about how best to improve our health care system. Many of the solutions that have surfaced have focused on curbing costs and improving quality of care - unarguably critical issues that need to be addressed. As the marathon search for solutions is approaching sprint speed, we at FasterCures wanted to share that the search for cures has made it on the agenda. Senator Arlen Specter (D-PA) introduced the Cures Acceleration Network (CAN) Act of 2009 as an amendment (SA 2866) to the health reform bill in the Senate.

The Specter amendment seeks to expedite the time it takes to turn a scientific discovery into an accessible, life-saving therapy by establishing CAN within the Office of the Director of the National Institutes of Health. Among the functions of the CAN are to:
  • conduct and support revolutionary advances in basic research, translating scientific discoveries from bench to bedside;
  • award grants and contracts to eligible entities to accelerate the development of high need cures;
  • provide the resources necessary for government agencies, independent investigators, research organizations, biotechnology companies, academic research institutions, and other entities to develop high need cures;
  • reduce the barriers between laboratory discoveries and clinical trials for new therapies; and
  • facilitate review in the Food and Drug Administration for the high need cures funded by the CAN.
We need to do a better job of translating promising scientific research into new means of preventing and treating disease. Otherwise, we will not be able to contain health care costs, improve productivity and prevent human suffering. Unless we invest in an effective medical research enterprise as part of an effort to improve our health system, we are limiting ourselves to stop-gap measures that will be unsustainable in the long-term.

For all the human and financial capital flowing through our healthcare system, there remains a formidable list of diseases for which there are no cures or even meaningful treatment options. And yet, it can take nearly two decades to turn a research discovery into a medical solution. Our need for cures has never been greater.

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