Murray: We must reach an agreement on measures to strengthen consumer safety and protection and secure sustained investments in the NIH and the FDA
(Washington, D.C.) – Today, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), the top Democrat on the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, delivered opening remarks at a HELP Committee markup, emphasizing the need to secure sustained funding for biomedical research and drug and device approval, as well as patient and consumer safety measures, in any final agreement on advancing medical innovation.
The Committee advanced a series of FDA reform bills, as well as legislation to encourage development of a vaccine for the Zika virus, and advanced Dr. John King’s nomination to serve as Secretary of Education by a vote of 16 to 6.
Full text of Senator Murray’s remarks:
“Thank you, Chairman Alexander.
“And thank you to all of our colleagues for joining us today.
“I’m pleased that during today’s markup, we will move forward on Dr. King’s nomination to serve as Secretary of Education, advance important legislation from Senator Franken and others to encourage development of a vaccine for the Zika virus, and vote on a series of bipartisan FDA proposals.
“Members on both sides of the aisle—as well as their staffs—have worked hard together to reach agreement on these bills.
“I want to particularly recognize the hard work of Senators Casey and Bennet.
“I appreciate their efforts, and I also want to express my appreciation to Chairman Alexander for working with us to strengthen these measures over the course of our recent negotiations.
“The FDA policies being considered today have moved in the right direction for patients and families.
“But if we truly want to advance medical innovation that gets safe, effective new treatments and cures to patients, there is much more we need to do.
“Before any final package reaches the floor, we will have to reach agreement on measures to strengthen consumer safety and protection and secure sustained investments in the NIH and the FDA.
“We can mark up these bills today—and we should continue to work together to make progress—but we will not have a final deal, or any path to a law signed by the President, until we get an agreement on those critical issues.
“Patients and families rely on the gold standard of FDA approval every day.
“And one important way we can and should uphold the gold standard is by strengthening the FDA’s ability to monitor devices after they’ve gone to market.
“Democrats will introduce an amendment today that lays out one idea to move toward this goal.
“And, if we want to find ways to ensure that patients and families have access to safe, effective, and affordable new treatments and cures—we need to make sure that our country’s innovators have the resources they need to make lifesaving medical breakthroughs.
“So I want to be crystal clear, once again—while we can and should keep working to make progress on this package, the only way any of it gets signed into law is if we get a deal on strong, sustained, investment in biomedical research at NIH.
“The bipartisan agreement to boost NIH funding in the budget agreement was great progress.
“And it showed that federal investments in biomedical research are a priority for members on both sides of the aisle.
“But we can’t stop there—because today, the NIH rejects nine out of eleven grant proposals it receives.
“That’s one of the highest rejection rates in history—and it means that potentially life-saving, world-changing breakthroughs are falling by the wayside.
“We have an opportunity in the HELP Committee to make a huge difference for patients and families waiting for new treatments and cures to be discovered.
“We should take advantage of it.
“I’ve also made clear that if we want to uphold the gold standard of FDA approval—and I know we all agree on that goal—we can’t simply expand the FDA’s responsibilities without expanding its resources.
“So that’s another key priority we’ll need to see in any final agreement from the HELP Committee.
“I’m pleased that Senator Warren has put forward an ambitious proposal, introduced as an amendment today, to provide sustained investments in priorities at the NIH and FDA including: the Precision Medicine Initiative, early career scientists, and new breakthrough biomedical research, just to name a few.
“Senator Warren’s bill has the support of every HELP Committee Democrat.
“And I’m very hopeful that Republicans will be willing to work with us to deliver on these priorities—because doing so would offer a lot of hope to families we all represent.
“A final legislative package that includes strong investments in biomedical research, that maintains the gold standard of drug and device review and approval, and makes real progress on patient and consumer safety once drugs and devices have been approved, would go a long way toward ensuring medical innovation helps the patients and families who are waiting and hoping for new, safe, and effective treatments and cures.
“That’s the only path to a bipartisan deal that can be signed into law by the President—and I hope we’ll take it.
“Thank you. I will have more to say later in support of the nomination of Dr. King. I’ll now turn it back over to Chairman Alexander.”