AIDS fight led to streamlined review process for lifesaving drugs

Yesterday, marked the 30th anniversary of the discovery of the AIDS virus. Twenty years ago I was diagnosed with HIV-AIDS and thanks to an active AIDS community that demanded change, I am alive today. The AIDS community pushed the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to speed up the review process and user-fees were instated to help bolster the FDA budget to review and approve HIV and AIDS drugs at a much faster rate.

Hope for today’s serious disease treatments still lies with medical researchers who are making scientific breakthroughs and with government regulators who approve these breakthrough medicines for the market.


Common sense abortion policy

Abortion should not be a hard, divisive issue – at least not politically.

This week, Gallup released its annual survey on how the U.S. public feels about it.  For the past 10 years, the figures have hovered around the same lines, with about 50 percent saying they believe abortion is morally wrong, and around 40 percent said they believe it to be morally acceptable. Older people and Republicans score higher than others on being “pro-life” and seeing abortion as “morally wrong.”


The state of Medicare (Rep. Fred Upton)

The Board of Trustees for Social Security and Medicare recently released a bombshell of a report that shows this essential health safety net is coming apart at the seams. The report estimates the Medicare trust fund will run dry in 2024, five years earlier than last year’s estimate, and went on to explain, “The fund is not adequately financed over the next ten years.”  In an alternative scenario released late Friday afternoon that received less press coverage, CMS Chief Actuary Rick Foster painted an even more dire picture of Medicare's finances, reporting that overall Medicare spending could increase to 10.36 percent of the GDP, unfunded obligations could be significantly higher, and long-term costs could dramatically increase from the numbers provided in the Board of Trustee’s report.

However, you don’t need to read the 265-page report to understand why Medicare is going broke. Last year, Medicare expenditures reached $523 billion, but the income was only $486 billion—leaving a $37 billion deficit in just one year. And with 10,000 new individuals becoming eligible each day, it’s only going to get worse.


Senate must sustain obesity prevention and treatment

Whether or not a Senate vote on the budget proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan is seen as political posturing, lawmakers must take a stand on what the measure means for our long-term health care spending.

Because the proposal would repeal the Affordable Care Act — and specifically its vital obesity treatment and prevention programs — it would promote a continuation of the skyrocketing costs and decreased life expectancy that result from the current obesity epidemic.


Biopharmaceutical research and development needs policy support

On Wednesday morning, Senator Bob Casey will convene a Joint Economic Committee hearing to discuss the role that the life sciences industry – including biopharmaceutical research companies – plays in promoting innovation and creating jobs across the U.S.

We commend the committee for recognizing the importance of our sector, both in terms of the positive impact biopharmaceutical companies have on America’s economy and in terms of the life-saving products that result from the innovative work that they do.

Unfortunately, our companies are not immune to the economic downturn that plagued America in recent years, and they today face challenges that they could not have anticipated just a decade ago.


Community pharmacists can help improve health outcomes

Independent community pharmacists are among the most accessible health care providers in America. And we may be more visible than usual this week as hundreds of local pharmacists visit Capitol Hill. Our message is simple: Trusted, neighborhood pharmacists provide expert medication counseling, promote the use of cost-saving generic drugs and can play an even greater role to improve health outcomes and reduce medical costs.
To many in Washington, especially those new to the nation’s capital, the area can seem to consist only of national chain pharmacies and Big Box stores. So it’s worth revisiting the unique role that independent community pharmacies play in America’s health care system today.


World AIDS Vaccine Day: Igniting the prevention revolution

There’s one bromide any decent physician endorses — the one about an ounce of prevention being worth a pound of cure. When it comes to ending the AIDS pandemic, U.S. policymakers from both sides of the aisle have embraced this notion as well, providing unwavering, bipartisan support for the global effort to end AIDS, which has already claimed nearly 30 million lives and left another 33 million infected.

U.S. government support for research into HIV prevention — most notably an AIDS vaccine — has been crucial to seeding what scientists are calling a prevention revolution. Without it, we would not be where we are today: The sheer risk of taking on AIDS vaccine development is a significant disincentive to private sector investment. This has resulted in a classic market failure that can only be surmounted with government support. World AIDS Vaccine Day provides an opportunity to consider why this support is also smart long-term policy — why it makes sense not just in medical terms, but in financial ones as well. 


Holding the president accountable to commitments made over Medicare discussions

At present, America’s entitlement programs are towards their last years of solvency – a fact agreed on by both sides of the aisle. Both parties must come together to have a commonsense conversation to prevent the collapse of institutions on which millions of seniors rely on and save Medicare for our children and grandchildren.
Last year, at the Republican retreat in Baltimore, President Obama stood before members of the House of Representatives and said, “At what point can we have a serious conversation about Medicare and its long-term liability…or a serious conversation about budget and debt in which we're not simply trying to position ourselves politically?” The President went on to say we cannot start these discussions by asking “who's to blame,” who is “trying to hurt our senior citizens” or “how can we make the American people afraid of the other side.” The President said this is what he’s “committed to doing.”
House Republicans have put forward what President Obama called a “serious proposal” to deal with Medicare spending, which will save necessary entitlement programs for current seniors, as well as our children and grandchildren.


The GOP shield for the healthcare industry

During the 2009 healthcare reform debate, and now during their campaign to overturn or weaken the healthcare law, conservatives espoused principles such as states’ rights and limited federal government. However, when it comes to holding the medical industry accountable for deaths and injuries caused by medical malpractice, many conservatives switch views suddenly to support sweeping federal interventions in state law.
Some self-described conservatives are pushing to pass a bill called the “Help Efficient, Accessible, Low-cost, Timely Healthcare Act (H.R. 5), which would sweep away centuries’ worth of state laws and replace them with a one-size-fits-all federal mandate. By turning traditional conservative arguments on their heads, this bill demonstrates that the only principle at work is the commitment to shield powerful industries – doctors, hospitals, medical device and drug makers – from accountability.