05.05.15

Murray: Supporting Precision Medicine is Key to Improving Care for Patients

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) delivered remarks at a HELP Committee hearing on Continuing America’s Leadership: Realizing the Promise of Precision Medicine for Patients. In her opening statement, Murray highlighted that it is one of her priorities to work to improve the quality of care for patients, and that supporting precision medicine is a critical part of this effort.

Murray discussed the need for Democrats and Republicans to work together to build on the bipartisan budget deal reached last Congress, replace sequestration, and invest responsibly in priorities like the President’s precision medicine initiative, as well as in education, infrastructure, and defense. Murray also emphasized that as precision medicine develops, key stakeholders will need to work together to develop strategies to protect the privacy and personal information of patients.

Key excerpts from Senator Murray’s remarks:

“I’m proud that Washington state is home to several institutions that have been pioneers in this area. These include the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the University of Washington, which are using precision medicine technology to tackle breast cancer, eye disease, and Alzheimer’s disease, among others.”

“Last Congress, Democrats and Republicans were able to come together to replace harmful sequestration cuts to investments in NIH, FDA, and other critical priorities, like education, infrastructure, and defense. I’m hopeful that this year—despite the budget proposals put forward by my Republican colleagues—we will be able to work across the aisle and find a way to prevent these shortsighted cuts from kicking back in.”

“One of my top priorities on this Committee is looking for ways to continue improving the quality of care patients receive. And supporting precision medicine is essential to this goal. By offering patients and providers more and much better health information, patients—in consultation with their doctors—will be empowered to make informed decisions about their care. And our health care system will be better equipped to put their needs first.”

“I do want to note that protecting privacy will be an important challenge throughout this process. Just in the last few months we have seen serious security breaches impacting families’ personal health information.  This is unacceptable. As researchers, providers, and patients gather and use more health information, we need to be aware that data is being created that cyber-criminals will want to exploit, and that means we will need to develop strategies to protect privacy that meet today’s challenges.”

Full text of Senator Murray’s remarks:

“Thank you, Chairman Alexander. And thank you to all of our witnesses for joining us.

“Each of your agencies plays a critical role in the topic we’ll be discussing—and I’m grateful to have you all here to share your expertise.

“I’ve approached our bipartisan effort to advance medical innovation focused on one question in particular. And that is, ‘what can Congress do to help all patients and families get the safest, most effective treatments and cures more quickly?’

“Our conversation today about the promise of precision medicine is a crucial, and truly exciting, piece of the puzzle.

“There’s no question we are at a critical moment in the medical field. Researchers and medical experts are increasingly finding ways to treat patients not just as the average patient—but instead, based on their own unique characteristics and history.

“This is like the difference between getting eyeglasses based on the average prescription and getting eyeglasses based on your own prescription. It’s huge—especially for patients and families across the country who are waiting and hoping for better treatments and cures.

“I’m proud that Washington state is home to several institutions that have been pioneers in this area. These include the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the University of Washington, which are using precision medicine technology to tackle breast cancer, eye disease, and Alzheimer’s disease, among others.

“And I’m glad that we have the opportunity today to discuss: the ways in which precision medicine is changing and improving lives, and how Congress can help advance this new frontier in biomedical innovation for patients and families.

“The President has proposed making significant investments in precision medicine.  President Obama’s fiscal year 2016 budget supports a bold new initiative to exploit the recent advances in genomics, molecular biology, and data management, to support the shift away from one-size-fits-all medicine, and toward treatment tailored to specific individuals.

“This proposal could do an enormous amount to accelerate the advancement of precision medicine.  But as I discussed with Dr. Collins in our appropriations hearing last week, I am deeply troubled by the steady erosion of NIH’s purchasing power over the last decade.

“Last Congress, Democrats and Republicans were able to come together to replace harmful sequestration cuts to investments in NIH, FDA, and other critical priorities, like education, infrastructure, and defense.

“I’m hopeful that this year—despite the budget proposals put forward by my Republican colleagues—we will be able to work across the aisle and find a way to prevent these shortsighted cuts from kicking back in.

“This is absolutely critical to the kinds of investments we need to make to help families and grow our economy, including precision medicine.  One of my top priorities on this Committee is looking for ways to continue improving the quality of care patients receive. And supporting precision medicine is essential to this goal.

“By offering patients and providers more and much better health information, patients—in consultation with their doctors—will be empowered to make informed decisions about their care. And our health care system will be better equipped to put their needs first.

“I do want to note that protecting privacy will be an important challenge throughout this process. Just in the last few months we have seen serious security breaches impacting families’ personal health information.  This is unacceptable.

“As researchers, providers, and patients gather and use more health information, we need to be aware that data is being created that cyber-criminals will want to exploit, and that means we will need to develop strategies to protect privacy that meet today’s challenges.

“Chairman Alexander and I are investigating the current state of cybersecurity in the health sector. And it is clear that this needs to be an all-hands-on-deck effort with providers, insurers, and government working together.

“Thank you again to all our witnesses for coming today.  And I also want to thank Chairman Alexander for holding this hearing on a topic of such importance for patients and families in Washington state and across the country.

“I look forward to our work together, and with other members of the committee, to support precision medicine and continue advancing medical innovation.”

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