• Ideas
  • politics

Rep. Fred Upton: How to Breathe New Life Into America’s Health-Care System

3 minute read
Rep. Upton is a Republican U.S. Representative from Michigan and Chairman of the Committee on Energy and Commerce.

Science and technology have made tremendous advances in recent years, but our regulatory system has not kept pace with the innovation that is happening both in labs and in Silicon Valley. To address this, my colleagues and I on Congress’s Energy and Commerce Committee recently voted unanimously to approve the 21st Century Cures Act. The act would help modernize the health-care innovation infrastructure, incorporate a patient perspective into the drug and device approval process, support advances in personalized medicine, streamline clinical trials, and provide more resources to support cutting-edge research and help young scientists.

The 21st Century Cures Act is the product of a multiyear, unconventional, nonpartisan listening tour that has brought every facet of the health-care innovation infrastructure together to begin the work of building a 21st century health-care system. Nonpartisan points include modernizing and streamlining the FDA approval process, prioritizing resources for basic science and medical research, supporting antibiotic development and providing more timely review of vaccines.

For the 10,000 known diseases (7,000 of which are rare), there are only 500 treatments. I hope that with this bill, we can deliver the right weapons to win the battle against cancer, Alzheimer’s and other diseases that affect millions of Americans.

The bill would deliver $10 billion to the National Institutes of Health, in addition to reauthorizing the NIH for three years and providing additional resources to the Food and Drug Administration. This much-needed funding would breathe new life into many areas of invaluable medical research at the NIH as well as our universities. Research that may have been sidelined might have a new opportunity. And with more research comes more hope.

With this bill, everyone from patients to researchers to clinicians would have new opportunities to engage with the system that produces treatments and cures. The bill would remove unnecessary paperwork burdens and begin to establish a structured framework for the meaningful incorporation of patient experience data, informing scientists, regulators, and researchers on how a treatment is or is not working. We would break down barriers among the different silos of the health-care innovation infrastructure so doctors would be able to more easily communicate with the researchers, scientists, and innovators who are already working on the next generation of cures and treatments.

The 21st century has seen enormous advances in mobile medical apps and other technological tools, but our regulatory system was built before any of these technologies were even a thought. This bill would provide a regulatory framework to unleash these innovations and offer new pathways for health monitoring, treatment, and communication.

And at a time when stories of partisan gridlock and political bickering leave Americans with a feeling that we cannot accomplish big things as a country, this could help signal that no matter the political party, there are leaders who can put aside their differences in order to take a big step forward in helping patients.

It is no secret that doing big things in health care can take time, but for patients and families who are suffering, there is no time to waste. We need to make it clear that health care innovation and the development of cures and treatments is, and will continue to be, an urgent and nonpartisan priority.

More Must-Reads From TIME

Contact us at letters@time.com

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary on events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. Opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of TIME editors.