Friday, April 15, 2011

What’s the long-term impact of “last week’s news”?

We’ve been watching the budget news unfold to see how it impacts medical research and regulatory funding. We focused on how increased resources at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration could accelerate the review and approval process of medical solutions, and how we measure return of our national investment in research at the National Institutes of Health.

At a time of scarce fiscal resources, an increase in the FY 2011 budget for the FDA is an important recognition of its critical role. Under the final FY 11 Continuing Resolution, FDA would receive $2.463 billion in budget authority appropriation - a $107 million increase over FY 10 funding levels. A much-needed boost to a chronically underfunded agency with big responsibilities – regulating products that account for 25% of consumer spending in the U.S. Increased funding at the FDA will allow the agency to bolster its scientific infrastructure and expertise and be able to more effectively take the baton of medical innovation from the medical research community and bring it into the marketplace, where scores of patients impatiently await access to potentially life-saving therapies and life-enhancing scientific advances.

If we are to advance medical progress and improve patients’ lives--which will significantly bolster the US economy—we need to continue making FDA a national priority. Just this month, the Alliance detailed in a white paper some of the potential costs to the domestic economy and U.S. exports if FDA falls behind. The true potential of the life sciences industry can only be realized if we have in place an adequately funded and reliable regulatory system.

Turning to the other end of the medical research and development spectrum, Science magazine reports that the National Institutes of Health would receive $30.7 billion, or $260 million below the 2010 level. The continuing resolution does not specify funding for the health reform law, including specific provisions impacting medical research, like the Cures Acceleration Network (CAN). CAN was designed to create new funding mechanisms at the NIH to accelerate the development of high need cures.

As Members of Congress turn their attention to budget implications of the health reform law, it is our hope that CAN will receive the appropriate funding it needs so this promising solution to speed up medical progress can actually progress. With the budget battle now considered “last week’s news,” it’s time the medical research community train its focus not only on getting a slice of the pie – but making sure that slice is put to good use. The ongoing conversation should really be about how federal resources can be used to ensure greatest ROI in terms of improved health and better quality of life. After all, last week’s news could impact generations to come.

*FasterCures is a member of the Alliance for a Stronger FDA, its executive director, Margaret Anderson is the Alliance’s vice president.