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Jackson Cit Pat: 21st Century Cures Act aims to improve lives, offer hope

June 29, 2015
Opinion Editorial
June is Alzheimer's Awareness Month.

For many of us, we have a close friend or family member who suffers from this debilitating disease.

According to the Alzheimer's Association, 180,000 people age 65 or older in Michigan live with the disease. Across the country, it's more than 5 million.

The cost to care for those with Alzheimer's is an estimated $226 billion in 2015 alone.

With no cure or way to slow it down, Alzheimer's takes a tremendous mental, physical, and financial toll on patients and caregivers.

Sadly, Alzheimer's isn't unique. It is one of many diseases that do not have a cure.

In total, we know about 10,000 diseases but only have 500 treatments.

That's why I'm proud to co-sponsor the bipartisan 21st Century Cures Act, spearheaded by my colleagues Congressman Fred Upton (R-MI) and Congresswoman Diana DeGette (D-CO).

The goal of the 21st Century Cures Act is to speed up the research and development of a new generation of life-saving cures and treatments for patients.

We live in a time of incredible advancement in science and technology, but our laws and bureaucracies are stuck in the past. We need to modernize them for the iPhone age.

That begins with reforming the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) approval process. Right now it takes an average of 15 years for a new drug to go from the laboratory to the pharmacy. Removing unnecessary red tape will streamline the process and accelerate getting new breakthroughs to market.

Innovative medical apps that improve health care outcomes show remarkable promise but also face an uncertain and burdensome regulatory system. With the prevalence of smartphones, anyone can benefit from using apps that monitor patient data, improve communication with doctors, and provide other personalized care in real time.

To unleash these tools faster, the bill will establish common sense steps to remove the uncertainty for their developers caused by an outdated system.

Boosting research and removing barriers to collaboration will also help increase the rate of developing better cures.

To that end, the bill includes $10 billion in new resources for the National Institutes of Health, fully paid for by other savings. It also increases incentives for younger scientists to focus their research on making new discoveries.

The House is set to vote on the 21st Century Cures Act in the coming weeks, and I'm optimistic it will pass with overwhelming bipartisan support.

As the population ages, diseases like Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, cancer, and more affect a growing number of Americans. It often feels like there is no hope for families that are suffering. The 21st Century Cures Act can begin to change that.

By investing in cutting edge health research and our innovation infrastructure, we can find better cures to bring a healthier future in reach for patients.

At a time when partisan gridlock dominates the headlines, the 21st Century Cures Act is a unique opportunity to set aside party politics and enact bold solutions to improve the lives of the American people.

This op-ed was originally published in the June 26 edition of the Jackson Citizen Patriot.