Each year, IFFGD goes to Washington DC to advocate for legislative issues that affect the GI patient community.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) forms the cornerstone of this nation’s biotechnology industry. NIH supports basic, translational, and clinical research into various diseases and disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome, gastroparesis, and others. This federally funded research often serves as a catalyst with industry turning medical breakthroughs and scientific advancements into innovative therapies and cutting-edge diagnostic tools. NIH research has seen modest increases over the past few years, but more funding is needed.
These increases need to continue moving forward, and the entire research community is asking Congress to continue prioritizing this important research.
National Institutes of Health (NIH)
Overall Investment in NIH: We support increasing funding for NIH to a level of at least $50.924 billion in FY24. The bulk of federally supported FGIMDs research is conducted through the National Institute of Diabetes, and Digestive, and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). Increased support for NIH will enable NIDDK and other Institutes and Centers to continue to expand the FGIMD research portfolio and initiate critical new research activities focused on improving our understanding of these conditions and leading to the development of innovative treatment options.
The Safe Step Act (H.R. 2163, S. 652)
Step therapy is common occurrence in health care. This practice can be a significant hurdle for both healthcare providers and patients. This is also known as fail first, a practice used by health insurance companies that requires patients to try and fail on one or more medications before the insurer will cover the medication originally prescribed by the patient’s healthcare provider. The medications that must be trialed first are decided upon by the health insurance company. For many patients, step therapy can delay needed treatment, and lead to using treatments that the healthcare provider feels is unnecessary or unsafe. Too often, this leads to worsened health outcomes, and contributes to higher healthcare costs.
This is a tool used by health insurance companies in an attempt to limit costs. Many patients are negatively impacted by this practice. Legislation is to be soon introduced in the 118th Congress to limit these practices. Learn more by viewing the previous Safe Step Act here.
The Safe Step Act would require insurers to implement a clear and transparent process for a patient or healthcare provider to request an exception to a step therapy protocol and requires group health plans to grant exceptions if certain protocol is met. Step therapy negatively affects many patients within chronic gastrointestinal and motility disorders.
The onset of a functional GI disorder can be triggered by severe stress and infections of the digestive tract. Deployed military personnel face an elevated chance of experiencing these risk factors and developing a functional GI disorder due to their service. As a result, the VA recognizes a “presumption of service” connection for Gulf War veterans applying for disability who suffer with functional GI disorders. The DOD conducts important research into medical conditions that impact veterans and active duty military personnel through its Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program (CDMRP).
The House and Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittees fund the DOD CDMRP’s Gulf War Illness Research Program (GWIRP), which provides an excellent source of funding for functional GI disorders research.
The Medical Nutrition Equity Act
Medical foods are physician-directed foods intended for the dietary management of a disease or condition that has distinctive nutritional needs that cannot be met by normal diet alone and are used under medical supervision. Many individuals with FGIMDs benefit from medical foods. This bill seeks to provide coverage, under Medicare, Medicaid, other specified federal health-care programs and private health insurance, of foods and vitamins that are medically necessary for the management of certain metabolic and digestive disorders. This legislation has not being reintroduced in the 118th Congress, yet. Visit congress.gov to see if your Representative supports this legislation.
The Functional GI and Motility Disorders Research Enhancement Act: This piece of legislation seeks to advance our scientific understanding of FGIMDs and improve treatment options for patients by encouraging and bolstering research. This bill calls on NIH to adopt and implement the FGIMD-related research recommendations outlined by the National Commission on Digestive Diseases. In addition, this bill calls on NIH to partner with the Department of Defense (DOD) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to increase research activities. This legislation is not being introduced in the 117th Congress. Many key asks of this legislation are currently being implemented by Congress and Federal Agencies. The continued advocacy efforts of the gastrointestinal community are encouraging the government to improve these efforts.