Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Medical research delivers cures, saves lives and – oh, by the way – is pretty great for our economy too

Over the past few weeks, Washington D.C. has been abuzz with conversation about the value of medical research to our national economy, collective health, and global competitiveness. Leading up to our own Capitol Hill briefing with Friends of Cancer Research last Wednesday – “The Blueprint of Medical Research: How New Medicines Get from the Lab to the Patient” – FasterCures has attended several events focused on the impact of research and research funding on our nation’s well-being.

We’ve heard unequivocally that scientific opportunity – particularly when it comes to our understanding of disease biology – has never been greater, but the outlook for funding has also never been more worrisome.  If we don’t increase our investment in medical research, we’re effectively cutting it, risking not only a major engine that fuels our economy, but also the lives of hundreds of thousands of people living with diseases that have few or no meaningful treatment options.

The budgetary decisions we make today are decisions that won’t just have an impact in our lifetimes, but will alter the course of the next generation of patients, family members, and young scientists.  Here are some of the things we’ve heard around town: 
  • “If scientists can take a few minutes to put down their microscopes and pick up a microphone it will make a real difference.  As we stand at this budget crossroads, we need your help to make the case.”
    • Congressman Ed Markey (D-MA) at American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network briefing on Capitol Hill, February 5, 2013
  • “The FDA is really a bargain when you look at scope of activities that have exploded without parallel budget increases. FDA costs only about $8 per American per year, and we are determined to maximize the dollars that we have. Drugs are available in the U.S. faster than anywhere else in the world, and with 39 new approvals in 2012, including a number of new advances in personalized medicine, we are making real progress. Sequestration would result in a significant reduction of domestic and international inspections, which makes for a tough environment in which to recruit and retain top people. We cannot walk away from our responsibilities."
  • The average per capita National Institutes of Health investment is just under $100/citizen/year, and less than 1% of federal budget. Yet these investments are having an outsized impact on our economy and health. The more stories that scientists and patients can tell in their own words, the more likely it is that the message will resonate with our policymakers. 
  • “We have come so far in cancer science, especially in my field of immunotherapy. We now live in an age where it is possible to take the army in own bodies, and train it to fight against our particular disease. But scientists like me would not be where we are if not for the investments that were made in us at the start of our careers.  If the budget of the NIH is cut any further we will be faced with having to tell the patients who rely on our science: I’m sorry, there’s nothing more we can do.  No one wants to be the giver or receiver of this heartbreaking message.”
    • Helen Sabzevari, global head of oncology-immunotherapy for EMD Serono Inc. at American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network briefing on Capitol Hill, February 5, 2013
  • "The National Institutes of Health (NIH) supported more than 402,000 jobs and $57.8 billion in economic output nationwide in 2012 alone. If Congress fails to prevent the 5.1 percent automatic, across-the-board spending cuts slated for March 1, the nation's life sciences sector could lose 20,500 jobs and $3 billion in economic input."
Currently, only five cents of every U.S. health dollar goes to biomedical research; however, 1 in every 3 Americans is living with a deadly or debilitating disease for which there are no cures. The U.S. needs strong investment in biomedical research to deliver cures, save lives, and maintain our global competitiveness. There’s no time to waste.

Relevant links:
-- ACS CAN Report Highlights Critical Need for Sustained Funding for Cancer Research
-- Videocast of Jan. 14 SMRB meeting
-- The State of the FDA—February 2013
-- Report from United for Medical Research about the Economic Impact of Sequester on Life Sciences Sector
-- Sequestration Station
-- Time=Lives

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