On September 14, 2016, the Rare Disease Congressional Caucus gathered a contingent of thought-leaders in the rare disease space to discuss Strengthening Medical Innovation in America for Rare Disease Patients.
Rare disease advocates across the country, including Emily Muller and Sharon Rose Nissley of Illinois as well as Shira Strongin of California, are helping to generate support for 21st Century Cures. And their efforts, as well as those of advocates meeting with Members of Congress and their staff in In-District Lobby Days meetings, are making a difference!
As U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton wrote in a recent editorial:
“Thanks to a remarkable outpouring and mobilization of rare disease advocates, August 2016 will go down in the books as the “Summer of Cures”… Together, we’ve made incredible strides in our effort to deliver #CuresNow. Every story, every single voice matters, and we are grateful for your support and willingness to share your personal experiences with disease.”
But time is running out for the Senate to act. As Chairman Upton noted, “It’s been a tremendous effort by the rare disease community and I am proud to report that we are closing in on the finish line. But we can’t get there without everyone’s continued efforts — now is the time to double down on all our efforts.”
Held every September, this Capitol Hill Day event continues the momentum established in 2013, and includes nearly 300 national organizations coming together in support of the Rally for Medical Research. Led by the American Association for Cancer Research, the purpose of the Rally is to call on our nation’s policymakers to make funding for National Institutes of Health (NIH) a national priority and raise awareness about the importance of continued investment in medical research that leads to MORE PROGRESS, MORE HOPE and MORE LIVES SAVED.
When Congress returns from their August recess, they will be considering how much funding to provide the National Institutes of Health — and the National Cancer Institute for 2017. As reported on the Children’s Cause Cancer Advocacy blog, a House Appropriations committee recently approved a spending bill that would increase NIH funding by $1.25 billion, while Senate appropriators would increase the NIH budget by $2 billion.
Children’s Cause Cancer Advocacy is urging advocates to write to their Senators and Representatives and ask them to support the higher Senate number, so that the NIH and NCI continue to work for new treatments and explore the promise of immunotherapy.
Take action now and tell Congress why each additional research dollar matters for children with cancer.
Then, consider scheduling a district office meeting during this August recess. Face-to-face meetings with your elected officials and their staff in the district office are an extremely effective way to get to know them and express your views on key issues like this one. CCCA’s new step-by-step Guide to Congressional District Meetings can help you!
The Cambria Lord Foundation invites rare disease non-profits nationwide to join in their efforts to establish a National Emergency Treatment Database for rare disease patients. If your organization is interested in joining the coalition, visit their website here, or email email@example.com!
The National Lymphedema Network is asking for help to pass the Lymphedema Treatment Act, S. 2373/H.R. 1608. This legislation seeks to improve coverage for lymphedema treatment by amending Medicare to cover compression supplies. Also supporting are the American Cancer Society, American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Oncology Nursing Society, American Physical Therapy Association, and American Occupational Therapy Association.
Research!America is asking YOUR organization to sign on to a letter thanking the Senate HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander and Ranking Member Patty Murray for their efforts to advance the Senate Innovations legislative package. These efforts have included negotiating requested additions and changes, securing pay-fors to accommodate an NIH funding boost, and facilitating Senate consideration of the bill under a timetable.
The deadline is 10:00 am on April 26th, so please share this link on social media and help get the word out. Thank you for keeping up the fight on behalf of the rare disease community!
Wednesday, March 23rd: 1:00 pm to 2:00 pm EST
These meetings help facilitate open dialog about legislation that affects the rare disease community. They are open to the public and the media. We ask that media formally announce their participation and refrain from quoting any of the discussion during the meeting. We encourage media to follow up with participants after the meeting for direct quotes.
12-16-15 – Washington, D.C. – In a show of bipartisan support for the rare disease community, members of the House and Senate have come together to form the first bicameral Rare Disease Congressional Caucus.
The Caucus will be critical in raising awareness of the challenges faced by rare disease patients and serve as a platform for giving those individuals a voice in both the House and Senate. In addition, the Caucus will convene briefings throughout the year to educate Congressional staff on topics of importance to the rare disease community.
The Caucus will be co-chaired by Representatives Lance (R-NJ) and Crowley (D-NY) and Senators Hatch (R-UT) and Klobuchar (D-MN).
“Throughout my time in the Senate, I have worked hard to help the 30 million Americans with rare diseases,” Sen. Hatch said. “While we have previously taken important steps, like passing the Orphan Drug Act, the fact that 95 percent of rare diseases currently have no treatment shows that much more needs to be done. Senator Klobuchar has been a terrific partner on legislation to get vital treatments to patients in need, and I am honored to join her as Senate Co-Chairs of the Rare Disease Congressional Caucus.”
“While there are about 7,000 known rare diseases, there are fewer than 500 drugs approved to treat any of those conditions,” Sen. Klobuchar said. “It is critical that we work together to increase the number of safe, effective, and affordable treatments that are available for people with rare diseases. I have long worked with Senator Hatch on this issue and I look forward to continuing this work as a Senate Co-Chair of the Rare Disease Congressional Caucus.”
The Rare Disease Congressional Caucus, originally formed in 2009 by Rep. Upton (R-MI), is currently comprised of 88 Members of the House and will be expanded to include the Senate.
“We are grateful to our House champions and to Senators Hatch and Klobuchar for stepping-up to lead this Caucus on behalf of the rare disease community. We are looking forward to raising awareness about the importance of public policy to spur the development of new therapies for rare disease patients,” said Julia Jenkins, Executive Director of the EveryLife Foundation for Rare Diseases.
Rare Disease Legislative Advocates (RDLA), a program of the EveryLife Foundation for Rare Diseases, will continue to coordinate regular Hill briefings and act as a legislative clearinghouse for the patient community, with the goal of mobilizing patients to be effective legislative advocates (www.rareadvocates.org).
More than 300 patient advocates and industry leaders as well as staff from Capitol Hill and federal agencies joined us last week for the fourth annual RareVoice Awards Gala at Arena Stage in Washington, DC.
Dr. Steve Groft received a Lifetime Achievement award for his dedication to stimulating research and advancing development of therapies during his tenure at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and National Institutes of Health (NIH), where he served as Director of the Office of Rare Disease Research from 1993 until his retirement in 2014.
The judges had difficulty selecting the winners among the passionate patient advocates making a difference in states across the country and on Capitol Hill. Patricia Weltin, President and Founder of the Rare Disease United Foundation, received an Abbey for patient advocacy at the state level. Lisa and Max Schill with RASopathies Network received an Abbey for patient advocacy at the federal level for their efforts in support of the 21st Century Cures Act. Ronald Bartek, President and Founder of the Friedreich’s Ataxia Research Alliance, received a Lifetime Achievement Award for his tireless advocacy before Congress as well as the FDA and Social Security Administration.
The Chairman and members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee were recognized for their leadership on the 21st Century Cures Act which has several provisions critical to the rare disease community, including incentives to spur development of new therapies. Representative Fred Upton (R-MI) received a Lifetime Achievement Award. Representative Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), G.K. Butterfield (D-NC) and Diana DeGette (D-CO) were honored with Congressional Leadership Awards. Saul Hernandez, Deputy Chief of Staff and Legislative Director for Representative G.K. Butterfield, and Clay Alspach, Chief Health Counsel of the Energy and Commerce Committee, received Abbeys for their work on behalf of the rare disease community.
Dr. Kakkis, President and Founder of the EveryLife Foundation for Rare Diseases, ended the awards ceremony with a call to action, urging everyone in attendance to contact their Senators to ask that the many provisions of the 21st Century Cures Act supported by the rare disease community be included in Innovation for Healthier Americans, the Senate companion bill.
Thank you to Shire, the Presidential Sponsor, and other sponsors including AbbVie, Alexion, Amgen, Amicus, Genzyme, Novartis, PhRMA, Raptor, and Vertex. Proceeds from the Gala fund Rare Disease Week on Capitol Hill, to be held February 29 through March 3 next year.