Support and concern over incentives for curing major diseases

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WDTN) –  A bill that seeks to set up a compact with other states to create a multi-million dollar prize for curing major diseases took another step forward along its path to becoming law this week at the Statehouse.

House Bill 345, sponsored by Republican State Representative Jim Butler, was given a proponent testimony hearing.

At that hearing Cathy Schwandt, a survivor of both pancreatic and breast cancer, shared her support for the bill.

She is concerned that companies are not being motivated to find cures when finding treatments for diseases is so lucrative.

Also speaking in support of the bill was Dr. Dave Westbrock, an endocrinologist with 40 years of experience.

Westbrock says that it is unsurprising that companies are choosing to make decisions based on the financial wellbeing of those businesses, but he also says the pubic has an expectation of those companies as well.

He also points out that most if not all of the cures that have been found in the modern age of medicine have all dealt with infectious diseases, leaving cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and a host of other major diseases uncured.

That is partially because it is easier to cure infectious disease with the technology and scientific understanding that we already possess.

However, Westbrock goes on to say that the technology needed to find the cure for the more difficult diseases to address, like cancer, may already be in place but the use of that technology is simply lagging behind.

Regardless of the reason, Westbrock says the bill should incentivize medical companies to invest in finding cures because it provides them what they want and need; money.

Interestingly enough, that is exactly what concerns the Chairman of the committee the bill is being heard in Representative Stephen Huffman.

Huffman is a doctor as well, and says the incentives could cause companies to abandon their funding to find treatments for research into potential cures that may not pan out.

That could ultimately harm patients, according to Huffman.

Westbrock disagrees that the decision on funding research is an either or situation.

Huffman is also concerned about how the bill ties the government to the cure, and says government will not be able to handle that situation if it comes to pass.

It will be up to Huffman whether the bill gets another hearing. If it does, it is expected that hearing will be open to others who oppose the bill and interested parties who have not yet chosen which side they are on to voice their thoughts to lawmakers.

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