News Releases

Murray, Rep. Kennedy Introduce Bill to Advance Research and Treatments for Brain Injury and Disease

Mar 13 2009

Legislation would coordinate and fund life-altering brain research and help streamline approval process for new treatments

(Washington, D.C.) – This week, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.) introduced legislation in the Senate and House to significantly help scientists advance their understanding of the human brain and develop new treatments and cures for the millions of Americans who suffer from neurological diseases, conditions and disorders. 

One hundred million Americans – one in three – suffer from some kind of brain or nervous system condition, including Alzheimer’s, Down syndrome, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, schizophrenia, traumatic brain injury, and post traumatic stress disorder.  The combined economic burden of these and other brain illnesses and disorders costs our country over $1 trillion annually.

“Neurological disorders take a terrible toll on victims and their families,” Senator Murray said.  “Yet despite the number of people who suffer from neurological conditions, we still have only a limited understanding of how the brain works and how best to treat injuries and illnesses.”

“Especially with thousands of troops returning home from battle suffering from PTSD and TBI, the time to make a federal commitment to coordinating and funding neurological research is now,” Murray continued.  “Our service members have risked their lives for our safety, and we owe it to them – and all victims of neurological conditions – to make a concerted investment in research and treatments that will help them cope, and hopefully lead to a cure.”

“Millions of Americans suffer from brain-related illnesses and injuries so it is essential that we leverage our nation’s efforts to better understand and develop treatments for neurological disorders.  While researchers have made great strides in neurosciences, there is still much that is unknown about how this extremely complex organ works,” Kennedy said.

“With Mental Health Parity now law, we are moving in the direction of bringing greater attention to brain-related illness,” Kennedy continued.  “Directing additional Federal resources and coordinating a comprehensive strategy for research of neurological disorders is an investment that will ultimately lead to new discoveries, better treatments, and healthier lifestyles.”

Murray and Kennedy’s National Neurotechnology Initiative Act of 2009 (S. 586) was introduced Thursday.  It would increase funding to the National Institutes of Health (NIH); help remove bottlenecks in the system to speed up research; coordinate neurological research across federal agencies by creating a blueprint for neuroscience at NIH; and streamline the FDA approval process for life-changing neurological drugs – without sacrificing safety. 

The Act also has economic benefits.  It will help create jobs in the emerging field of neurotechnology.  And, by developing better treatments, reduce health care costs for everyone.

Murray and Kennedy’s effort to invest in neurological research is also being supported in the House by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Rep. Bob Filner (D-CA), and Rep. David Wu (D-OR).

In addition to introducing the bill, Murray submitted comments for the Congressional Record; the full text follows:
      
Mr. President, today I am pleased to introduce legislation that would make a tremendous difference in the lives of the millions of Americans suffering from neurological illnesses, injuries, or disorders.
 
An estimated one in three Americans suffers from some kind of neurological condition, from Alzheimer’s to Parkinson’s to multiple sclerosis.  And an increasing number of our troops and veterans suffer from disorders such as Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). 

Yet, despite this, we still have only a limited understanding of how the brain works, or how best to treat, diagnose, and cure neurological diseases and conditions.  And it’s taking a terrible toll on our families and communities.

I know from experience how devastating these brain injuries and disorders are for victims and their families.  My own father developed MS when I was young, and when he became too sick to work, my family had to rely on food stamps for a time just to get by. 

And every day, we hear heart-wrenching stories of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans suffering from TBI and PTSD.  Veterans with these disorders are more likely to struggle with joblessness, homelessness, substance abuse, and depression.  Many are in pain, desperate for help, but unsure where to find it.  And, tragically, an increasing number take their own lives as a result.

A recent study by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) found that the long-term health consequences of TBI alone include dementia, Parkinson’s-like symptoms, seizures, and problems related to socialization and unemployment.  Clearly, TBI and related disorders will affect our service members and veterans far into the future, and we owe it to them to develop better treatments and understanding of these injuries and disorders.

The National Neurotechnology Initiative Act of 2009, which I am introducing today, would coordinate our efforts to support new developments in research, speed up our understanding of the human brain, and help lead to treatments for all victims of neurological disorders.

The legislation would make needed improvements to the research system in our country, which now is disjointed, often limiting the ability for life-altering research to reach patients in need.  For example, it costs nearly $100 million more – and takes two years longer than average – to bring a drug that treats a neurological disease to the market.  And the combined economic burden of these illnesses and disorders is estimated at $1 trillion annually. 

The Neurotechnology Initiative Act would increase funding to the National Institutes of Health (NIH); help remove bottlenecks in the system to speed up research; coordinate neurological research across federal agencies by creating a blueprint for neuroscience at NIH; and streamline the FDA approval process for life-changing neurological drugs – without sacrificing safety. 

The Act also has economic benefits.  It will help create jobs in the emerging field of neurotechnology.  And by developing better treatments, we can reduce health care costs for everyone.  This research also has the potential to transform highly specialized areas of medicine, computing, and defense.  And, most importantly, it could save or improve the lives of millions of Americans.

I’m proud that this bill has support in the House, and I look forward to working on it with my colleagues here in the Senate.