Date: October 1st, 2002
Campaign commercials, local politician appearances, and issue rallies can only mean one thing…The election season is quickly approaching! The Alliance for Aging Research urges you to think about the political healthcare issues that will ultimately affect your health, form your opinions on these hot topic and vote!
The Alliance sees the following issues as areas of social and scientific debate that will ultimately affect how we all age. We express our opinions below, but invite you to learn more about the topics and formulate your own ideas and beliefs. What is important is to understand the issues at hand and give yourself a voice in the debate.
Stem Cell/Therapeutic Cloning: Cures in the Making?
The Alliance For Aging Research supports stem cell research and therapeutic cloning. Both areas of research could lead to the development of treatments or cures for scores of age-related diseases and disabilities. The Alliance, however, opposes human reproductive cloning. Our position is consistent with the recent report by the National Academy of Sciences, which found that attempts to clone a human being are "dangerous" and destined for scientific failure at this time.
Although the Senate participated in several debates over the past year on the efficacy of stem cells and therapeutic cloning, the complexity and serious nature of this issue warrants more discussion in order to educate Congressional members to make thoughtful decisions as the debate over medical and scientific boundaries continues in the Senate.
Our country possesses the talent, knowledge and resources to make real the prediction of a century blessed by advances in biology and medicine. If Congress errs continuing to limit the number of stem cell lines and by banning all cloning research, the federal government is not helping to lead scientists down the road to discovery, but rather is creating a barrier to life-altering cures.
For more information, visit http://stemcellfunding.org
Prescription Drugs: Establishing a Balance of Cost and Quality
The cost of pharmaceuticals concerns the Alliance for Aging Research. That is why we support expanding Medicare insurance coverage to include outpatient prescription drugs. Surely, no one in America should be denied access to modern medicines and therapies because of an inability to pay. At the same time, it is a core goal of the Alliance to encourage public and private sector research toward newer and better treatments that have the potential to improve health and vital functioning of Americans as they age.
In the July 11 issue of ROLL CALL, executive editor Morton Kondracke appropriately points to recent disruptions in health care for older people when Congress and Medicare administrators have set reimbursement rates unrealistically low. Mr. Kondracke, a respected non-partisan commentator, adds "…. the same could easily happen with prescription drugs - with disastrous results for research. Drug companies well might find inventing drugs for the aged too risky and focus on younger peoples' diseases."
For more information on the prescription drug debate, log on to:http://www.pbs.org/newshour/health/prescriptions/
Intellectual Property: Generics v/s Advanced Drug Therapies
Policymakers are considering weakening patent laws, which would create barriers to access of cutting-edge drugs, decrease innovation and eventually harm the quality of treatments available to patients. The next generation of pharmaceutical therapies will come from innovations born of promising biomedical research. Those who will develop the advanced therapies of the future must have access to massive amounts of investment capital to support high-risk research. This will occur only if proven incentives, such as guaranteed protection for intellectual property, are maintained as a matter of public policy.
In other words, if pharmaceutical companies loose their patents on newly released drugs and generic duplicates are developed, the companies ultimately will not have the research dollars to fund the promising discoveries of more advanced drug therapies.
Policy changes that undercut those incentives could place at risk our hopes for improving the human condition through medical research, as well as imperil a vital economic engine of the United States. Diminished incentives in the development of promising new breakthroughs in medicine would drastically impede research and innovation in the United States.
NIH Funding: Fulfilling the Commitment
For over four years, the Alliance for Aging Research has been actively working with scores of not-for-profit research and patient-support organizations to urge Congress to carry out the ambitious request to double the National Institutes of Health budget. In a joint report released this past April, the Task Force for Aging Research Funding, including more than 50 organizations headed by the Alliance, called for a total U.S. budget of $27.3 billion for biomedical and behavioral research for fiscal year 2003.
In the coming year, it is time for Congress and the White House to make the final down payment on doubling the research budget of the NIH. This will be a bipartisan achievement with repercussions for years to come.