Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts told the audience at a national healthcare advocacy conference Thursday she will introduce a new law—the Medical Innovation Act—to advance medical research.
The legislation would substantially increase funding for the NIH without increasing taxes or diverting money from other programs, she told the Families USA Health Action Conference in Washington, D.C. Blockbuster drug companies that face penalties for committing fraud would have to give money to the NIH.
“This isn’t a tax. It’s simply a condition of settling to avoid a trial in a case of wrongdoing. It’s like a swear jar,” she said, according to the Families USA blog. “Whenever a huge drug company gets caught breaking the law and wants off the hook, it has to put money in the jar to keep funding the next generation of medical research.”
The Act would substantially increase federal funding for the NIH, Warren said, according to her official web site. "We can increase this funding without raising taxes or stealing support from other critical programs. Instead, funding would come from blockbuster drug companies whenever they break the law and enter into major settlement agreements with the government. We should make it easier for the biggest drug companies to help develop the next generation of cures—and harder for them to profit from breaking the law and defrauding taxpayers."
"Over the past 50 years, the American system of medical innovation has transformed the health of literally billions of people around the world. But today, that incredible system is in trouble," said Warren.
“The first problem is the government. Congress used to work in a non-political, bipartisan way to expand NIH funding. But since the early 2000s, Congress has been strangling the funding needed for medical research,” she said. “The second problem is with the drug companies. Over the last 10 years, some of our wealthiest drug companies—those that capitalize on government research to generate billions of dollars in revenues through the sale of blockbuster drugs—have found another way to boost profits."
Warren called for advocates to join her in a campaign to pass the legislation. Access to health care is only half the battle, she said. The other half is advancing the ability to improve health itself.
Health Action 2015: Building Real Progress, Families USA’s 20th annual conference, is geared to state-based healthcare advocates, advocacy professionals from national organizations and healthcare and policy professionals. It runs through Saturday, Jan. 24.