Healthcare industry fights for White House role in innovation

Healthcare industry leaders are pressing the White House to get more involved with promoting healthcare innovation, saying the United States leads the world but faces growing challenges.

In separate events Wednesday and Thursday, former House Majority Leader Dick Gephardt (D-Mo.) and Stephen Ubl, the head of the medical device trade group AdvaMed, called on the Obama administration to task a federal office with promoting U.S. innovation.


They argue greater innovation will lead to more jobs and provide life-saving research and treatment options.

“Today we’re calling on the administration to give an appropriate federal office the responsibility to lead, coordinate and collaborate efforts to address the key challenges we face,” said Gephardt, chairman of the Council for American Medical Innovation, on Thursday.

On Wednesday, Ubl likewise called for the creation of a new White House office dedicated to promoting U.S. innovation. Ubl also wants federal agencies to be required to provide an innovation impact statement for all major policy decisions or regulations.

Healthcare makes up 17 percent of the U.S. economy, and has been a rare bright spot during the recession.

But innovation faces mounting challenges, such as international competition, poor science education and dwindling venture capital investment, because of growing uncertainties with regulations and payment rates in public programs such as Medicare. Such challenges are described in two new reports by the Lewin Group and Battelle that accompanied Ubl’s and Gephardt’s calls for action.

“I think it’s important to realize that we can’t take this leadership position for granted,” Ubl said. ”Future success hinges on sound public policy.”

Gephardt outlined four steps he said were needed to drive innovation:

• Create public-private partnerships to translate research into marketable products;

• Promote innovation by increasing the federal research and development tax credit and making it permanent, and by creating tax and economic incentives to boost manufacturing and export-related job growth;

• Overhaul the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) regulatory process by funding a collaborative effort guided by government, patient advocates and industry;

• Support the biosciences in primary and secondary education.

“We believe this is a practical, achievable and pro-growth agenda that will create jobs [and] spur life-saving research and treatments,” Gephardt said. “It also represents our best hope of our country to emerge form this recession healthier and more competitive.”