Rep. Upton delivers GOP weekly address

Melissa Nann Burke
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — U.S. Rep. Fred Upton delivered the Republican weekly address Saturday, highlighting his $6.3 billion medical innovation bill that President Barack Obama is expected to sign next week.

“The holiday season is one of joy, but, it’s often a time for families to come together and reflect on loved ones lost — taken much too soon by disease. We’ve all said too many early good-byes to folks that we hold dear,” said Upton, a Republican from southwest Michigan.

“Three years ago, we had an idea. That we could do better. That we needed to do something and transform our health and research system to effectively fight disease in the 21st century.”

He partnered with Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colorado, and the result was the bipartisan legislation known as 21st Century Cures, which passed the House and Senate by wide margins in the last week. It was a huge win for Upton, who is winding down his six years as chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee this month.

On the House floor last week, Upton mentioned the two Michigan girls who inspired him — sisters Brielle and Brooke Kennedy of Mattawan, who have a rare, genetic muscle-wasting condition called type II spinal muscular atrophy, for which there is no known cure or treatment.

“We break down regulatory barriers and expedite the approvals for safe drugs and devices coupled with billions for more research, including the Beau Biden Cancer Moonshot,” he said.

“We also provide critical funding to the FDA so that they have all the tools they need to ensure the safety of these news drugs and devices.”

Critics wanted the legislation to include controls for drug pricing and worried that hastening the drug and device approval process could compromise patient safety.

The package also includes $1 billion in state grants over two years to prevent and treat abuse of opioids and other addictive drugs like heroin, and reshapes federal mental health programs. The legislation would commit to infuse the National Institutes of Health with $4.8 billion over 10 years, dependent on future Congresses appropriating the funds.

“Yes, this is one of the most important and impactful bills we will enact this Congress,” Upton said. “Patients aren’t interested in debating the timelines, the failure rates, the size and costs of conducting clinical trials. They just know that despite the promise of scientific breakthroughs, they can’t get the therapy that might save their lives one day. That is why we need 21st Century Cures.

“We are on the cusp of something special. A once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform how we treat disease. President Obama will sign this legislation into law next week and his help was critical in getting this new law enacted — so, we say thank you Mr. President.

“A new day for medical research is on the horizon. A new day of hope for patients and their loved ones. We needed to do better. And with 21st Century Cures, we will. Thank you and have a blessed holiday season.”

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