Alexander: Senate Bill to Spur Treatments, Cures for Patients Would Be “Most Important Legislation This Year”

Tells Kingsport Chamber he is working to help “more Americans access cutting-edge cures like Tennessean Doug Oliver did – he was blind and now he sees”

Posted on May 4, 2016

KINGSPORT, Tenn., May 4, 2016 – U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) told members of the Kingsport, Bristol, and Johnson City Chambers of Commerce today that he is working on legislation that would "affect virtually every American and be the most important bill Congress considers this year."

"Last August, Nashville resident Douglas Oliver was legally blind and today, he can see. Also today, a Tennessee company is 3-D printing artificial hips, some patients with Cystic Fibrosis are being cured--and in 10 years, the head of the National Institutes of Health predicts we'll have a universal flu vaccine, hearts rebuilt from a patient's own cells, and real treatments for Alzheimer's. These are just a handful of the many stunning breakthroughs in biomedical research that can be accelerated and delivered to more American patients if Congress passes a 21st Century Cures bill into law this year."

The Senate legislation is result of 50 bipartisan proposals passed by the Senate health committee, which Alexander chairs. Together, those proposals form a companion to the House of Representative’s 21st Century Cures Act, which passed the House last year by 344 to 77.

Alexander today told the chamber members the story of Douglas Oliver, who was told last year by Vanderbilt University doctors that there was no cure for his Macular Degeneration, but suggested he look for a clinical trial. Oliver found one -- and last summer, boarded a plane and flew to Florida, where doctors inserted a needle into his hip bone, extracted his own cells, spun them in a Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-cleared centrifuge, and injected them back into his retina. The vision in Oliver's worst eye went from 20/2000 to 20/40. Last December he received his Tennessee driver’s license 11 years after surrendering it because of blindness.

"The bill I am working on will create a breakthrough path for new medical devices, help the FDA attract talented researchers and reduce administrative burdens on researchers. That will help more Americans access cutting-edge cures like Tennessean Doug Oliver did,” Alexander said. "It’s a remarkable story but it’s just one story and there are millions of other Americans who could be helped if we complete the work that we set out to do,” Alexander said. “Sometimes we get caught up in bill numbers and sections, and back and forth of politics and legislating, but as we finish our work, I hope we can focus on other Tennesseans who will be helped by what we have a chance to do with this legislation.”

The medical innovation legislation would also allow the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to require researchers who use NIH funds to share their data. It would encourage interoperability of electronic medical records, reduce excessive physician documentation requirements, clarify each patient’s right to own their own medical record, and discourage information blocking.

Alexander said that his goal is to present this companion legislation to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), along with a bipartisan "NIH Innovation Projects Fund," which would provide a surge of one-time funding for targeted NIH priorities, including the president's Precision Medicine Initiative, the vice president’s National Cancer Moonshot, a Young Investigator Corps, Big Biothink Awards, and the BRAIN Initiative. Alexander added, “With its 21st Century Cures Act passed last year, the House voted 344 to 77 to provide $8.8 billion in paid-for, mandatory funding to support such NIH priorities. We continue to work to find an amount that the House will agree to, the Senate will pass and the president will sign.”

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