03.24.15

Murray: Advances in Medical Innovation are Critical for Families and the Economy

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) delivered remarks at a committee hearing on Continuing America’s Leadership: Advancing Research and Development for Patients. In her remarks, Murray highlighted how advances in medical innovation have benefitted families and driven economic growth in Washington state and across the country. Murray also noted that it is critical to support those working to advance medical innovation with the resources they need to develop new cures and treatments, while continuing to uphold the highest standards of patient and consumer protection. As the HELP Committee works to foster more innovation in the biomedical sector, Murray called for a bipartisan process that prioritizes the perspectives of patients and their families.

Key excerpts from Senator Murray’s remarks:

“It is very clear in my home state of Washington, and across the country, that medical innovation is at a critical moment right now. Researchers and physicians are looking at prevention and treatment in a whole new way. And medical advances have changed the way we tackle devastating diseases like cancer, cystic fibrosis, and many others. At the same time, the life sciences are helping to drive economic growth and job creation. I have seen this firsthand in Washington state.”

“Now—we all know that Congress can’t legislate new cures into existence.  If we could, we would.   But what we can and must do is give our nation’s biomedical community the right tools to innovate for patients, now and for generations to come. That means making sure that NIH is well supported, as Director Collins urged us two weeks ago.   This also means making sure that the doctors and scientists at the FDA have all the tools and resources they need, so that they can be engaged early in the development of new products, and can help innovators get new safe and effective treatments to patients as soon as possible.”

“We also need to expand our use of medical data. We have a wealth of medical information that, when shared in a timely and secure way, will help us make sure the right treatments are reaching the right patients, and, help us better understand different groups’ unique health needs, including women.”

“While we of course want to get patients treatments as quickly as possible, speed cannot come at the expense of safety. ‘New’ doesn’t always mean better… So we need to ensure we are both encouraging innovation and upholding the highest standards of patient and consumer protection.”

“It is so important to me that the perspective of patients and their families be prioritized throughout this effort. They are the ones hoping for new cures, searching for better treatments, and looking to all of us here for solutions. I’m very hopeful that working together, we can continue the strong tradition of bipartisan success we’ve had in advancing medical innovation, and again deliver for the families we serve.”

Full text of Senator Murray’s remarks:

“Thank you, Chairman Alexander. And thank you to all of our witnesses for being here today.

“At our last hearing on advancing medical innovation, we had the opportunity to hear from NIH Director Collins and FDA Commissioner Hamburg.

“They discussed their agencies’ roles in helping drive development and approval of treatments that save and improve lives across our country. And I laid out some broad principles I will be very focused on, including supporting NIH and basic investments in research, finding ways to get patients safe, effective treatments as quickly as possible, prioritizing the needs of women and children in the product development and approval process, and above all, protecting and upholding the deep trust that families place in FDA when they reach into the medicine cabinet, or take a trip to the drug store.

“It is very clear in my home state of Washington, and across the country, that medical innovation is at a critical moment right now. Researchers and physicians are looking at prevention and treatment in a whole new way. And medical advances have changed the way we tackle devastating diseases like cancer, cystic fibrosis, and many others.

“At the same time, the life sciences are helping to drive economic growth and job creation. I have seen this firsthand in Washington state.

“According to the Washington State Department of Commerce, the life sciences sector directly employs 34,000 individuals and indirectly employs another 57,000. And it is only continuing to grow.

“So thinking about ways we can continue to advance medical innovation is both good for families’ health and good for our economy. The HELP committee has a strong tradition of bipartisan success in this area.

“In 2012, for example, we added accelerated approval, to allow the FDA to approve new drugs faster for serious conditions and unmet medical needs. 

“We also added a ‘breakthrough’ designation for promising new drugs, so that researchers can find out earlier whether these treatments are effective. 

“These bipartisan successes have made a real difference for patients and families.  And while we learned from Commissioner Hamburg just two weeks ago that FDA’s drug approval times are the fastest in the world, we must continue look for new efficiencies. 

“Now—we all know that Congress can’t legislate new cures into existence.  If we could, we would.   But what we can and must do is give our nation’s biomedical community the right tools to innovate for patients, now and for generations to come.

“That means making sure that NIH is well supported, as Director Collins urged us two weeks ago.   This also means making sure that the doctors and scientists at the FDA have all the tools and resources they need, so that they can be engaged early in the development of new products, and can help innovators get new safe and effective treatments to patients as soon as possible.

“We also need to expand our use of medical data. We have a wealth of medical information that, when shared in a timely and secure way, will help us make sure the right treatments are reaching the right patients, and, help us better understand different groups’ unique health needs, including women.

“It is important we look at the entire spectrum of medical innovation, from basic research, through development and approval, and into the post-market setting.

“While we of course want to get patients treatments as quickly as possible, speed cannot come at the expense of safety. ‘New’ doesn’t always mean better. And as the Institute of Medicine warned us in 2006, a regulatory culture too focused on speed can seriously damage public confidence in product safety.

“So we need to ensure we are both encouraging innovation and upholding the highest standards of patient and consumer protection.

“I’m pleased that today, we will be able to hear from key players in medical innovation from the private sector to academia, about the ways you all think we can step up to these challenges, and help more patients and families get life-changing, life-saving cures and treatments.

“Thank you all so much for being here and sharing your expertise. I’m confident our bipartisan work to advance medical innovation for patients will be stronger with your input.

“As our discussions continue, I’m also looking forward to hearing from patients and advocates, who can share insights into the improvements our communities want to see. 

“It is so important to me that the perspective of patients and their families be prioritized throughout this effort. They are the ones hoping for new cures, searching for better treatments, and looking to all of us here for solutions.

“I’m very hopeful that working together, we can continue the strong tradition of bipartisan success we’ve had in advancing medical innovation, and again deliver for the families we serve.

“And now I will turn it back over to Chairman Alexander.”

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