Make medical advances easier

People die every day from diseases for which preventions and cures are in the pipeline. Americans pay hundreds of millions, perhaps billions, of dollars a year for high-priced drugs because the companies that market them have little or no competition.

A great deal is wrong with this picture.

More than a year ago, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a bill, the 21st Century Cures Act, intended to increase medical research and ease bottlenecks in federal approval of new drugs and health care devices. The vote, 344-77, was a clear bipartisan endorsement of the measure.

But since then, the proposal has met a different fate in the Senate. There, it has been chopped up into a variety of smaller bills.

With members of Congress eager to pursue their priorities during the current lame-duck session, opponents of the plan are attempting to kill it entirely.

Among provisions in the House bill are:

n a five-year, $1.75-billion funding plan for the National Institutes of Health.

n an additional $110 million a year for five years for the Food and Drug Administration.

n new incentives for creation of drugs to fight rare diseases.

n steps to streamline the FDA’s approval process for new medicines and health care devices, without watering down safeguards for patients.

Rep. David McKinley (R-W.Va.) supports the measure. He believes the bill “will improve our lives by bringing research from the lab to our families.”

Congress should approve the measure, much as the House envisioned it, so government can be more an expediter of health care advances than a roadblock.