Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Breaking News on NIH, MS Research Funding

Congress Could Send Funding Bill to President on Veterans Day

Breaking News: Congress is moving quickly on the fiscal year 2008 Labor, Health and Human Services and Education (Labor-HHS) appropriations bill (H.R. 3043) that funds the NIH, CDC, SSA, and other programs. You can help gain support for increased funding for MS research. The best chance of securing increased funds is to achieve veto-proof votes for the conference report in both the House and the Senate. We understand that the House intends to vote on the conference report later today.

Call and ask for their support of H.R. 3043 and a 3.1 percent increase for NIH in the Labor-HHS conference report. This bill includes important funding increases for NIH, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Social Security Administration. It also will be a critical source of funding for multiple sclerosis research.

Senate and House Conferees Agree on Labor-HHS Bill

In a victory for medical research, a conference committee of House and Senate members on November 1 approved $29.7 billion for NIH (the leading source of research funding for MS) for FY 2008. That is an increase of $1.1 billion (or 3.1%) over the FY 2007 level. The Labor-HHS appropriation bill added $100 million to the NIH budget beyond what the Senate passed on October 23. This is major progress considering the President had proposed cuts to NIH funding. Thank you. MS activists have been taking action and encouraging support from your legislators on this issue from the beginning.

Funding for SSA
Overall, the Labor-HHS appropriation bill provides $150.7 billion in discretionary spending for education, health, labor and other agencies, such as SSA. Many disability advocacy groups have been working to address the problems associated with the backlog of disability claims and appeals at SSA. Those claims must be approved prior to receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) cash benefits. Many people living with MS are eligible for SSDI and have endured the arduous process. To help alleviate this backlog, negotiators provided a $576 million increase (or 6.2%) for administrative costs to SSA.

Stem Cell Language Removed
The Senate Labor-HHS bill originally included language that would have expanded funding for embryonic stem cell research. However, Senators Tom Harkin (IA) and Arlen Specter (PA) removed this language in an effort to compromise. The Senate passed their bill on October 23 by a vote of 75 - 19, which is enough to override a presidential veto.

The Future of the Labor-HHS Bill

Now that the Senate and House worked out their differences, the Labor-HHS conference report goes back to each chamber for approval. In addition to the funding increases, the conference report packaged the Labor-HHS appropriations bill (H.R. 3043) with the Military Construction-Veterans Affairs appropriations bill (H.R. 2642) to make one large spending bill. This new bill is what the House and Senate will be voting on, and if it passes both chambers, it will be sent to the President. Click above to take action.

The future of this combined spending bill is uncertain. President Bush maintains that he will veto any spending bill that allocates more than he requested back in February. To override his veto, the Senate and the House must both pass the conference report with a veto-proof majority. It is anticipated that the bill will be put before the President on Veterans Day.

Follow On Biologics on Hold Until 2008

Members of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health met on October 31 to discuss the future of the follow on (aka generic) biologics legislation (H.R. 1038). Many people living with MS and other diseases depend on biological drugs to sustain or improve their quality of life. This legislation would establish a pathway for the FDA to approve safe, effective, affordable, and comparable versions of biologic therapies for MS and other diseases. There is pressure on the House Energy and Commerce Committee to take action on this issue this year. However, the committee decided to push off working on the bill until 2008.

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 synthetically exact copies of the brand name original, based on a precise chemical composition. Follow on, or generic, versions of biologic drugs, on the other hand, would need to allow for slight 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. For MS, biologic therapies include Avonex, Betaseron, Rebif, and Tysabri.

Thank you for being an MS activist. Join the movement at http://capwiz.com/nmss/utr/0/?u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.nationalmssociety.org%2Fadvocacy

No comments: