Tuesday, June 26, 2007

MS Issue Updates and Ways to Take Action

Influence MS Research Funding Over Fourth of July
The opportunity to secure a $15 million Defense appropriation for multiple sclerosis (MS) research through the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs (CDMRP) is expected to be decided in late July. One of the last and best ways to make an impact on this bill is when Congress is home for the Fourth of July recess.

Here is what you can do to support funding for MS research. Schedule a meeting with your senators or representative in their local office any time during July 1 - 9. Just call and ask for an appointment to talk about funding for MS research. Click here to find your legislators' district office contact information.
Legislators are increasingly joining us in support of MS research through this new funding stream. Research into possible environmental triggers of MS could lead to a better understanding of the disease and move us closer to a world free of MS. Click here for more background on this issue.

Senate is Debating Generic Biologics Issue
The issue of generic biologic drugs, also called follow-on biologics, has been gaining national attention recently. The Senate currently is debating legislation that would allow for a regulatory pathway for safe, effective, affordable, and comparable versions of biologic drugs — the Access to Lifesaving Medicine Act of 2007 (S. 623 and H.R. 1038).

Biologic (also known as biological or biotech) drugs are produced from living cell cultures rather than synthesized chemically. The generic drugs that are currently available are all synthetically exact copies of the brand name original, based on a precise chemical composition. Generic versions of biologic drugs, on the other hand, would need to allow for nuances in the cell cultures while meeting certain parameters that are strict enough to ensure they are just as safe and effective as the originals.

This issue is especially timely. To support a pathway for generic biologic drugs, call your senators today. Call 1-800-828-0498 and ask for your senator. You can use the following bullets to help with your conversation:
  • Support a workable pathway for follow-on biologic medicines like the one that is outlined in the Access to Lifesaving Medicine Act.

  • A drug is not effective if it is not affordable.

  • Provide a clear framework for FDA to use its scientific expertise to approve safe and comparable products — a framework free of the need for additional congressional action or unnecessary potholes.

  • Do not delay patient access to lower-cost treatments that are safe and effective. At the same time, provide fair exclusivity to innovator brand companies.
Read the news article about of one Washington state man who shares his family's story of multiple sclerosis, the cost of fighting it, and the need for more affordable versions of biologic drugs for MS and other diseases.

Small Increases to NIH Funding, but Respite Care Left Out
Both the House and Senate Appropriations committees have indicated a slight funding increase for NIH, based on their recently reported Labor-HHS funding bills. The House’s Labor-HHS bill allocated a 1.9% increase to NIH, while the Senate version gave a 2.8% increase. Even though the Senate bill is a greater percent increase, the overall funding allocated is actually $1.9 billion less than the House version. No increase is guaranteed given the current fiscal climate, so support for NIH funding is still needed. Click here and scroll down to send a quick e-mail to your representative on this issue.

Unfortunately, neither of those proposed increases includes funding for the state grants promised through the Lifespan Respite Care Act that passed Congress last year. However, the House is expected to propose an amendment with a funding request of $40 million for this purpose in the next few weeks. We will continue to keep you updated.

President Vetoes Stem Cell Bill … Again
On June 20, President Bush vetoed the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act (S. 5). In addition to the veto, Bush issued an executive order directing the NIH to continue pursuing alternate forms of stem cell research. This order is not useful however as NIH already has been conducting this type of research for more than 20 years.

The stem cell bill now will head back to the Senate for an override attempt. The Senate is expected to have at least 66 of the 67 votes required to override the veto; while the House will be many votes short. In an alternate attempt to successfully enact embryonic stem cell research legislation, the Senate Appropriations Committee has attached a similar version of S. 5 to the Labor-HHS funding bill. This will now head to the Senate floor for a vote. As it progresses, we will notify you of any MS activism that could help this cause.

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