Friday, January 12, 2018
Billy Long: 21st Century Cures law has made a difference
December 2017 marked the one-year anniversary of the passage of 21st Century Cures Act. This bipartisan legislation aims to transform medical research through discovery, development and delivery. In 2013, Rep. Fred Upton and Rep. Diana DeGette spearheaded the effort to pass 21st Century Cures, and after years of bipartisan work, it was finally signed into law by President Obama on December 13, 2016. So far, it’s off to a good start.
For years, institutions like the National Institute of Health (NIH) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have been trying to keep up with the ever-changing health care field. Outdated laws made it harder to keep pace with those changes, that was until the passage of the 21st Century Cures Act. This bill removed research barriers, increased funding for research and aimed to advance new drug therapies, including for rare diseases. Specifically, this bill gives states $1 billion in grants to fight opioid abuse, from which Missouri has already benefited. Additionally, this bill provides $4.8 billion to the NIH for cancer, disease and medicine research.
Each one of us knows someone affected by cancer. The American Cancer Society estimates that over 35,000 Missourians will be diagnosed with cancer in 2018, and more than 13,000 will not survive. That’s why 21st Century Cures established the Cancer Moonshot program. The objective of the Cancer Moonshot program is to accelerate cancer research, catch cancer in its early stages and provide more therapies to patients. The National Cancer Institute, which is part of the NIH, recently identified nine opportunities that align with the Cancer Moonshot program’s goals. These opportunities include helping children with new therapies, increasing collaboration across research centers and preventing cancer before it occurs.
But cancer research isn’t the only issue 21st Century Cures tackles. 21st Century Cures authorized $500 million to the FDA to develop new treatments and streamline the process it takes to approve those treatments. In 2017, the FDA approved 46 drugs, more than double the 22 the administration approved in 2016. Many in the medical field are hopeful that approval numbers in 2018 will be just as good or even better due to the funding increases to treatment development. This funding helps with the more than 7,000 rare diseases that affect between 25-30 million people in the U.S.
As funding continues to funnel into different programs, I am confident that we will continue to see positive results. It’s amazing what can happen when both sides of the aisle work together for the common good.