Health Care

Committee releases to-do list to help medical industry

Leading members of the House Commerce and Energy Committee on Tuesday unveiled a sweeping set of proposals Tuesday aimed at speeding up the discovery of new treatments and cures across the U.S.

As part of the bipartisan “21st Century Cures” initiative, lawmakers released a 13-page document outlining plans to streamline clinical trials, speed up the production of certain drugs and better incorporate patients’ experiences when designing new treatments.

Among the dozens of line items, Reps. Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.) and G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.) want to reward companies who create treatments for rare diseases by giving them six months of exclusive rights to the product.

Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.), would ask the National Institutes of Health to create a strategic plan, while Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.) wants to increase funding for brain research.

Another goal supported by nearly a dozen lawmakers would help advance the field of “telemedicine,” which uses technologies like video calling to treats patients outside doctors’ offices.

The to-do list is focused heavily on cutting red tape from the Food and Drug Administration’s processes, doling out more funds for research and safeguarding the medical device industry.

Medical industry groups were quick to praise the effort.

Stephen J. Ubl, the president of the medical device trade group AdvaMed, said he hoped the initiative would alleviate stress from the country’s “innovation ecosystem” and help speed up treatments.

Carrie Wolinetz, president of the nonprofit United for Medical Research, said she hoped the effort would “ensure the U.S. keeps its title of world leader in medical innovation.”

But Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.) spoke out against the group, which he said ignores the basic funding needs at the NIH.

“In its current form, I am concerned that the nearly 400 page draft could create more problems for our health care system than it solves,” he wrote in a statement.

“Increased funding was a common theme during last year’s public engagement, from both sides of the aisle, and is fundamental to truly advancing 21st century cures.”

Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Col.) announced the group’s targets after more than a year of conversations with patients, doctors, researchers and regulators.

“The discovery, development, and delivery process is a cycle, meaning that data captured and analyzed on the delivery side informs new discoveries and better, more targeted solutions for patients,” they wrote in a statement.

Tags G.K. Butterfield

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