Saturday, June 29, 2013

Bob Hugin of Celgene on the need for--and the benefit of--action Alzheimer's

Bob Hugin, Chairman and CEO of Celgene, and also chair of PhRMA calls for new push to improve treatment of Alzheimer's Disease.  

Hugin writes

"The Alzheimer’s Association reports that without new disease-modifying treatments, by 2050, at least 13.5 m
illion Americans will have developed Alzheimer’s disease, costing this country $1 trillion per year – a crushing expense. A new therapy that delays the onset of Alzheimer’s by five years would reduce by nearly 45% the number of people with the disease by 2050, and save $447 billion per year. We cannot afford NOT to invest in the discovery and development of such a potential treatment today."

This blog post is a heartening indicator that the whole pharma industry is eager to be a part of the anti-Alzheimer's effort, and is equally determined to argue that such an effort would not only be a humanitarian win for America and the world, but also an economic and budgetary win. In other words, a win-win-win!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor Shifts the Paradigm on Healthcare--From Cuts to Cures.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) said on Wednesday:  "If you cure disease, you no longer have to spend dollars towards treating the symptoms ... of those diseases."

Bingo.  Of course, cures are cheaper than care.  It's cheaper to beat than to treat.  That was the lesson of polio.  A cure is cheaper than care.

If we want to "bend the curve" on healthcare costs--and we all do--this is the right way to do.  Also the only humane way.

But let Russell Berman of The Hill tell the story

“We believe in medical research and discovery, and we believe that pediatric medical research is and should be a national priority,” Cantor said. Joining him at the event were Reps. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), Renee Elmers (R-N.C.) and Susan Brooks (R-Ind.), all co-sponsors of the bill.

The proposal, known as the Kids First Research Act, is part of Cantor’s “Making Life Work” agenda that he laid out earlier this year in a rebranding effort for Republicans. 

The backing of federal support for medical research is not so much a reversal for the Virginia Republican as it is a bid to get away from a singular GOP focus on spending cuts.

“In times of fiscal stress especially, we are called upon in Congress to set priorities,” Cantor said in describing the bill. “It’s also the right thing to do because research in this country of ours has proven to be a tremendous boon to our economy.”

Yet in defending the proposal against critics who say the elimination of presidential campaign funds should go only to deficit reduction, Cantor echoed the arguments that President Obama and other top Democrats have made in favor of government spending for research. 

The funding, he said, would promote economic growth and help reduce the deficit in the long term.

“Ultimately, we all know that the driver of our debt and deficit are the unfunded liabilities connected with the entitlement programs,” Cantor said at a press conference. 

“There’s been a lot of disagreement about how to address that. This money can actually be translated into addressing that through cures. If you cure disease, you no longer have to spend dollars towards treating the symptoms ... of those diseases.”

In fact, Cantor has been advancing this idea for a while.  Back in February I noted that the GOP leader's speech to AEI contained a refreshingly positive vision of scientific transformation.

If Cantor can inspire Republicans, and Rep. Rob Andrews can inspire Democrats, then there's the real prospect of a genuine transformation of American healthcare policy.

Next year, interestingly enough, marks the centennial of the birth of Jonas Salk, the man whose work epitomizes the once and future potential of the cure strategy.  

Sunday, June 23, 2013

All jokes and suspicions about Anna Chapman aside, who in the DC policy world is thinking like this?

Anna Chapman in The Financial Times

"Let me be clear on this one: whether we are dead or alive after 60 is dependent on the state of biotechnology in [Russia]. If we start growing bio-artificial organs in the next 10 years, it will add 20 years to the average lifespan. I won’t mention what gerontology research can do. Sergey Brin, founder of Google, in 2008 underwent a genetic study that found by the time he reaches the age of 70 there is a 50 per cent chance he may develop Parkinson’s disease, which affects his mother. That is, the disease is hereditary, and can threaten not only Brin, but also his children. Since then, he has spent more than $130m on research for the development of drugs for Parkinson’s disease."

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Mitt Romney and the Cure Strategy--in 2013

From The Wall Street Journal, describing a forthcoming event on ideas, featuring, among other guests, Obama campaign strategist David Axelrod: 

"Mr. Axelrod and his wife, Susan, will tell of their daughter's struggles with severe epilepsy and talk up their support for finding a cure."

The Axelrods have long been involved in CURE--Citizens United for Research in Epilepsy--on behalf of their daughter, and all those who suffer from epilepsy. 

So this is a wonderful instance of Mitt Romney being both bipartisan and forward-looking--that is, reaching across the aisle and thinking about the ultimate potential of medicine; which is, of course, curing disease and thereby promoting better health.  

I suggested, last September, that Romney make curing disease--in particular, Alzheimer's, because it is so widespread and so costly--a key part of his campaign platform.  

Now, in 2013, the idea of curing disease is gaining more play.  Of course, such an emphasis on the Cure Strategy would have been more helpful to Romney's political fortunes if he had emphasized it last year, during the presidential campaign.