On December 13, 2016, former President Barack Obama signed the 21st Century Cures Act into law.1 This legislation will allocate approximately $4.8 billion in crucial funding for medical research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) that will span the next 10 years, including $1.4 billion for the Precision Medicine Initiative, $1.8 billion for the Brain Research Through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies Initiative, and $1.8 billion for the Cancer Moonshot initiative.2,3 The 21st Century Cures Act will also allocate $1 billion over a 2-year period for state grants to battle opioid addiction and $500 million to the US Food and Drug Administration over a 10-year period to accelerate the approval process for drugs and medical devices.2,3

In a recent statement, the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) praised the medical research funding aspect of this legislation, but urged Congress to develop a program at the Department of Defense that focuses on arthritis, and which provides funding for medical research into this condition and other rheumatic diseases.4

“While we are pleased that the 21st Century Cures Act will infuse additional, much-needed funding to the NIH to support medical research across the healthcare spectrum, we also know that more can and should be done to help Americans who are disproportionately impacted by arthritis and other rheumatic diseases,” said ACR President Sharad Lakhanpal, MBBS, MD, in a statement by the organization.4

Citing arthritis and other rheumatic conditions as the leading cause of disability in the United States, and as diseases that affect approximately 1 in 4 Americans, the statement by ACR stressed the need for the nation to invest financial resources into expediting medical research into new therapies and breakthroughs that will improve quality of life and ease the pain of millions of Americans.4 Of note, Dr Lakhanpal underscored the prevalence of arthritis among veterans.

“Today, arthritis is the leading cause of disability among U.S. veterans and the second most common medical reason for medical discharge from the U.S. Army. One in three veterans is diagnosed with arthritis, compared with one in five members of the general U.S. population,” he said. “Despite epidemic-level rates of arthritis in our Armed Forces and the burgeoning cost of this disease to the U.S. military, there is currently no dedicated Department of Defense budget for medical research on arthritis.”

Dr Lakhanpal concluded the ACR’s response to the passing of the 21st Century Cures Act with a more specific request to members of Congress.

“As Congressional leaders turn their attention to budget appropriations for the upcoming fiscal year, we urge them to prioritize the creation of a dedicated $20 million arthritis research program at the Department of Defense so that we can better meet the care needs of the thousands of active duty and veteran members of our Armed Forces who live with arthritis,” he said.

References

  1. The Energy and Commerce Committee. “Working together, we got the job done” - Medical innovation game-changer now law. December 13, 2016. https://energycommerce.house.gov/news-center/press-releases/working-together-we-got-job-done-medical-innovation-game-changer-now-law. Accessed January 23, 2017.
  2. The Energy and Commerce Committee. The 21st Century Cures Act (2016) section-by-section summary. 2016. https://rules.house.gov/sites/republicans.rules.house.gov/files/114/PDF/114-SAHR34-Sxs.pdf. Accessed January 23, 2017.
  3. American College of Radiology. House Passes Revamped 21st Century Cures Act. https://www.acr.org/Advocacy/eNews/20161202-Issue/20161202-House-Passes-Revamped-21st-Century-Cures-Act. Accessed January 31, 2017.
  4. American College of Rheumatology. ACR Statement on 21st Century Cures Act. December 7, 2016. www.rheumatology.org/About-Us/Newsroom/Press-Releases/ID/790/ACR-Statement-on-21st-Century-Cures-Act. Accessed January 23, 2017.

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