The 21st Century Cures Act was recently introduced in Congress and— gaining unanimous support in subcommittee —looks like it is well on its way to becoming law. The bill aims to move U.S. health care forward by spurring new research and by “streamlining” the FDA’s approval process for new drugs, among other provisions.
However, the Cures Act once again highlights the difference between our “prevent and protect” approach at Wellness Warrior vs. the “cure it after you’re sick” protocol from the “take a pill” folks at Big Pharma.
Yes, the Cures Act is needed: it will hopefully advance medical research and provide new opportunities for the health of our nation. Yet, it may also be a distraction from the root of some of our most major health problems in the US. There is plenty of research already out there confirming the benefits of a healthy diet, exercise, stress reduction, etc.., in other words, things that we don’t need a pharmaceutical company to manufacture. While lifestyle choices will not prevent all diseases, they can go a long way to improving the health and longevity of our country’s citizens. Bring on the Cures Act, but we hope it will operate in tandem with more funding for prevention and health education efforts.
The logic of the bill is strong enough, explained here by Forbes’ Bernard Munos:
Solving the tough problems we face, like moderating healthcare spending or stemming the Alzheimer’s crisis, cannot be done by improving or optimizing what we are doing – or else it would have been done long ago. We need new thinking and breakthroughs that dramatically boost innovation and reduce its cost."
Innovation is a vital part of any science, and certainly in the medical world. For diseases like Alzheimer’s, Type 1 Diabetes, cancer, and many others, research funding is greatly needed. The bill’s non-partisan nature and its bipartisan support are testaments to the necessity of research in the medical field. However, the theory in the bill about moderating healthcare spending through finding new cures leaves something to be desired. Regarding the bill’s $13 billion cost, Sarah Ferris and Peter Sullivan of The Hill provide a breakdown:
The major remaining question was how to pay for the bill's cost, including more than $10 billion over five years in new funds for medical research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The bill also includes $550 million over five years for the FDA, a key point for Democrats, who pushed to have the funds added."
Again, where are the dollars for prevention and education? Consider this: the lifetime cost of healthcare for the ⅓ of our nation that is obese was most recently projected to cost the U.S. $1.1 trillion, and the growing percentage of deaths related to obesity. Yet obesity is one of the preventable chronic health conditions. Why shower tax dollars on the search for cures, for something that is preventable in the first place?
When we take this perspective, the Cures Act seems a boon for the already well-to-do medical industry. Jeff Overley on Law360 points out that there are some Democrats who are working on ridding the bill of “sweeteners” for the drug and pharmaceutical industry. Alan Balch, PhD., in an opinion piece for The Hill, explains that in his field of oncology, there are currently roadblocks favoring insurance companies that prevent cures from getting to patients. He posits that the Cures Act must also address these issues for it to be of good use for the health of our nation.
If the benefits of innovation are to be realized, policies that ensure patients have access to novel medicines must be part of the equation. Otherwise, Congress will be successful in bringing more breakthrough medicines to market but many patients won’t be able to take them."
PHOTO: Originally published in The Hoops News
21st Century Cures: Patients must be the focus via the Hill