Paving the way for cures

Robert Pittenger - Contributing Columnist

You may have heard about Olympic athlete and North Carolinian Kathleen Baker earlier this week as she won the silver medal in the 100-meter backstroke.

Ms. Baker, like every Olympian, worked unimaginably hard with incredible discipline to earn her spot on the podium. But unlike other Olympians, Ms. Baker had an extra hoop to swim though to achieve her goal as she has Crohn’s disease.

For those unfamiliar, Crohn’s disease is a chronic condition which causes stomach pain, exhaustion, and weight loss. To train for the Olympics, Ms. Baker had to alter and restrict her diet, reduce her work out regiment and undergo constant blood tests.

Unfortunately, Crohn’s is one of nearly 10,000 known diseases for which we don’t have a cure. While we’ve made significant medical and scientific advancements over the past few decades, our outdated regulatory system has prevented many of these advancements from translating into new cures. To expedite the process of getting treatments and cures from the lab to patients, the House of Representatives passed the 21st Century Cures Act, which I cosponsored.

The 21st Century Cures Act increases funding for medical research, streamlines the process of bringing new drugs to market, and focuses on rare diseases which might otherwise not receive attention or funding.

Specifically, this legislation provides $1.86 billion per year for five years to create an Innovation Fund to provide incentives for the development of new drugs for rare diseases. The 21st Century Cures Act also modernizes clinical trials to include more patient driven data and breaks down barriers to medical research collaboration.

The 21st Century Cures Act is also fiscally responsible. Bipartisan entitlement reforms will save taxpayers $500 million over the first ten years and over $7 billion during the second ten years, according to estimates from the Congressional Budget Office and House Energy and Commerce Committee. We will continue to save additional taxpayer dollars as we find treatments for these costly diseases.

Chairman Alexander of the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee has said he hopes to pass 21st Century Cures through the Senate by the end of September.

If passed, this legislation could pave the way for cures to not only Crohn’s disease, but also Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and hundreds more diseases. Let’s use our country’s unparalleled innovation to keep more Americans like Kathleen Baker in the pool, but without the anchor of chronic diseases.

U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger, R-Charlotte, represents North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District, which will include Richmond County next year under state redistricting maps.

Robert Pittenger

Contributing Columnist

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