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Introduction Of The Clinical Research Enhancement Act

Rep. Nancy Lee Johnson

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Mr. Speaker, I rise today to announce with my good friend from New York, Congresswoman Nita Lowey, the introduction of the Clinical Research Enhancement Act that will improve the quality of health care by enhancing our investment in clinical research. We introduced a similar bill in the 104th Congress, and I am once again glad to be working with Congresswoman Lowey and the health research community, led by the American Federation for Medical Research, on this proposal.

Clinical research is the critical component we need to bring the discoveries of basic research to the patient in the form of medical treatments. Our Government makes significant investments each year in basic research through the National Institutes of Health. In fact, the Federal Government is the major source of investment in basic biomedical research. However, it is crucial that the Government focus not only on basic research but also on the translational research that utilizes the discoveries of basic research to improve our ability to prevent, treat, and cure disease and disability.

While there is industry support for clinical research and clinical trials, private funding is very difficult to secure for the initial steps of translational research, which may have little or no commercial potential. Examples of this initial research include nutritional therapies, new approaches to disease prevention, transplantation techniques, behavioral interventions, and studies of off-label uses of approved drugs. These initial steps of clinical research used to be subsidized in part from patient care revenues to academic medical centers. As we heard in our debate on Medicare reform and graduate medical education, however, these teaching hospitals are more and more stretched for teaching and patient care dollars. They are finding it much more difficult to maintain their teaching role, let alone their investment in clinical research. Therefore, it is more important than ever that NIH devote greater attention and resources to providing support for clinical research.

Without the important link of clinical research, the investment that our country makes in basic research does not have the impact on the quality of health care that it could have. We have heard concerns from the research community that clinical research based on our basic research discoveries is going on overseas because it does not have financial support in the United States. It would be ironic if our expanding commitment to medical research, as evidenced in by NIH's growing budget, should create jobs overseas because we fail to address the need to fund clinical research, the link between basic research and a vital biomedical industry on our soil.

This legislation also will encourage more of our young researchers and physicians to pursue careers in clinical research. The data demonstrates that American physicians and researchers are choosing not to pursue careers in clinical investigation in large part due to the lack of positions and funding for such research.

It is important that we take steps to rebuild our Nation's supply of well-trained physician scientists if the United States is to continue its leadership in the medical sciences. This legislation encourages physicians and researchers by establishing grant and loan repayment programs to support the training and research of clinical investigators.

I encourage my colleagues to examine this legislation carefully and discuss the issue with clinical researchers in their district. Many of them will highlight the needs that we have heard from researchers and universities across the Nation. Numerous polls have also shown that health care research is strongly supported by the American public. This legislation will make that research much more powerful and real in their lives.